Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Sap is Rising...When is Southern too Southern?

~~Okay, raise your hand if you don't know what I mean by "the sap is rising?" I used this term in chapter 1 of FRIENDLY FIRE and one critiquer noted it with the question, "What sap?" I was describing the time in spring when the trees begin to leaf, bud, and bloom and a young bird's, cat's, hawk's, dog's or man's thoughts turn to love. ; ) During my teaching career, we feared the rowdiness and increase in public displays of affection that Spring inevitably brought to the hallways and classrooms.

~~I used the term to note the time of year, and my POV character, Laura Grace, used the term. Here's a portion of the snip in question.
       Ten minutes later, the dappled shade and bright patches of vinca and impatiens along the hospital track began their calming medicine. Magnolia blooms heavy with vanilla and lemon scented the warm air. Settling into my rhythm, the beauty of the place captured my mind. A flock of Canadian geese honked at each other as a mother goose, followed by five fluffy goslings, sailed by. The little ones were puffs of downy yellow-gray as their legs worked overtime to keep up with their stately mother. Male mockingbirds strutted their stuff, raising their wings in the spring ritual to show how big they were in hope of attracting the ladies, and I found myself laughing. The sap was rising, just like spring at the high school.

~~I classify FRIENDLY FIRE as Mainstream. At least for the moment. Since it's set in Georgia, I wonder if I need to rephrase the terms Southerners would use in passing for a broader audience, or do they lend color and flavor to my setting? I find myself hesitating at British and Australian terms all the time, but just figure them out by context and read on.

~~What do you think? When is to Southern (or British, or Aussie)  too much? I'm curious about your opinions.


  1. Zan Marie, that is a beautiful paragraph. "The sap is rising," is perfectly acceptable. If you choose to you can put an added word before it, like "spring," to clarify. "The spring sap is rising." However, in my humble opinion it isn't necessary sine the entire paragraph describes just that. Remember, every critique is opinion. You can take what works and discard what doesn't. Good luck.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

  2. Nancy,
    I know that it's an opinion, but a valuable one. I'm just fishing for ideas right now. BTW, I've worked on the first scene using your input and some from my buddies at the Forum. On I go.

    I love your opinions, BTW. The more the merrier. ; )

  3. *blank stare*

    I have never heard that term before--but I'll chalk that one up to being a west coast gone east coast girl. Florida is introducing us to a whole new terminology as well.

    Personally I'd throw it in front of a group of random beta readers (without explaining your concern) and see what you get. If none of them say anything, then I say stick with it. However, if three out of five come away scratching their heads might be best to reevaluate.

  4. I find nothing wrong with it. Mainstream or not, there are many terms and phrases that different groups of individuals won't get. That's the beauty of the English language! I say keep it. If your critiquer can't figure out that it has something to do with spring at that point in the passage, then maybe they're just not that observant. Take every critique others give you, then decide what works best for your novel later on.

  5. I think the sap is rising works wonderfully. I'm not from the south yet I know what you're talking about. You know...some people can be way too nitpicky when it comes to critiquing writing.

  6. I don't think that this is too southern. I think it adds local color, which improves your piece. It certainly doesn't make it less mainstream.

    <3 Gina Blechman

  7. I thought this specific term was easily understood by the context, especially since you mention geese and spring.
    But then, I'm not a big fan of over explaining; I like figuring things out for myself and don't like having everything spelled out for me - and not just in books! I'm the kid in class who never asks questions but always looks for the answer on her own...

  8. It doesn't hurt a reader to have to look up a reference-- in fact it's actually good for them! Don't be afraid to use words that make your readers think!! Cheers!

  9. Hi, Chessy, Mary, Michael, Gina, Deniz, and Danette,
    I asked the question to see what others would say and I'm having fun with it. Hope y'all (to be Southern ; ) have enjoyed it, too.

  10. I understood it and I'm not southern. My preference is leave it in. If everyone just said "it's spring" books would get boring fast. Besides it's what your character would say.

  11. The "sap was rising" should be left in. It's quite understandable and unique. I would just say that the beat of the last sentence might need a little tweaking. Perhaps the word spring should be dropped. I'm not sure.

    The sap was rising, and I knew that same fever would soon overtake the high school.

  12. I'm not familiar with the term but I understood it. If it is unique to the setting, then it probably should stay in.


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