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Fictional Snorts

In fiction, characters laugh, giggle, chuckle, guffaw, cackle, snigger, chortle, and titter. They also snort. Snort? Yes, I know what a snort is. From Merriam-Webster:

: to force air violently through the nose with a rough harsh sound.

Over the last few months of reading, I’ve come across character after character snorting. Sometimes several characters in the first 100 pages of a novel snort. Moms snort, dads snort, children snort, mayors of major metropolitan cities snort, as well as the homeless, the impoverished, the down-and-out. People who don’t have anything to snort about snort!

Even in short fiction, character after character snort. Lately, in what I’ve been reading, fictional characters snort a lot!

My problem is that I can't remember the last time I saw or heard someone IRL snort. I can’t even ever remember snorting myself. (It’s gotta hurt, right?)

Snorting is an involuntary action. Can anyone reading this make themselves snort on command? If you can, put it up on You Tube. I wanna see it! And I’m not talking about white powder off a mirror.

Now, every time I see a character snort in fiction, I only see the writer introducing a minor stage direction to show a character in some unbelievable action. I see authorial intrusion! The occasional snort used to be fine. But if all your characters snort… See my point?

So, could we please have a five-year moratorium on snorting in fiction? I think we've reached our snorting quota until 2017.

Thank you!


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 2nd, 2012 12:56 am (UTC)
I disagree that it's an involuntary action. I disagree completely. There is a sexist regionalist joke that is told in several Midwestern states about neighboring states, usually Iowa, but Iowans pick a different one:

"Why do [rival state name here] farmers keep pigs?"
"To teach their daughters how to laugh." [demonstrate with a really obnoxious HEEEHEEEEHEEESNRRSNRRSNRRNSRR]

Doesn't reflect well on the teller, but I knew several girls growing up who had to focus not to snort just like that when laughing really hard. Why do people talk about milk/Diet Coke/coffee/etc. coming out their nose when they read something funny on the internet? They accidentally snorted some. Oops.

I think you're reading a snort as a far bigger deal than it is. It's not the roughest, harshest sound in the world. The joke above exaggerates it. Close your mouth firmly. Place your tongue firmly against the roof of your mouth. Breathe out through the nose, engaging the soft palate. Try a couple ways. If you can't get a voluntary noise, I bet one of the people around you can.

This reminds me of the editor who informed me that nobody was ever conscious of blinking at anybody else, which...he isn't.
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:07 am (UTC)
Wow, Marissa, I can snort now. Thank you! Still hurts, but I can do it. Can you teach me to roll my Rs? I've never been able to do that.

Actually, Jaime and I talked about this a while back and came to the same conclusion. Now I can teach her! And I'll teach my characters as well...after the five-year moratorium, of course ;-)
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:14 am (UTC)
Okay, place your tongue against the back of your front teeth and then move it up to the bit where the roof of your mouth gets kind of a crimp in it. Now say h. If you're just puffing out air, relax your tongue more until you get kind of a motorboat sound/feel. Gradually add the r into the motorboat. Is it working?
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
I'll have to work on that one a bit. I'm probably the only person in San Antonio who can't roll their Rs. And since we have a large Spanish-speaking population here, so I'm at a real disadvantage.

Consider this post a diversion for those of us not at WorldCon. Hope you'll attend Worldcon here next year. You can teach me to roll my Rs in person.
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:34 am (UTC)
I'm also talking to markgritter about this, because he can't roll his r's, and I think that tongue attachment will matter. If your tongue is attached too far along the bottom of your mouth, it will make things much harder.
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:26 am (UTC)
I will try to think how else to describe rolling R's so that I can teach it in future.

The thing is, I have the godkids. And so I am really used to never, ever, EVER taking, "I know, but I can't explain it to you," as an adequate answer. I always have to try another angle for how to explain.
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:15 am (UTC)
PS I also teach calculus via livejournal.
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:24 am (UTC)
Gee, you know lots of things I'm terrible at. Wanna learn how to play guitar? I do that pretty well.
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:25 am (UTC)
I have a timprov for that, but thanks! Right now I'm working on singing audibly. I'm quite serious. I was taught to sing exactly wrong as a kid, and so I'm unlearning a lot of stuff so that people can actually hear me when I sing with Tim.
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:32 am (UTC)
Cool! I was second-string choir in high school but in my twenties became a good singer. Mostly from playing bass and singing a song or two in first the band I was in on stage. Never thought I could sing a whole set though. A fellow musician told me I'd be surprised what I could do if I had to. In a couple of years I became lead vocals because I had to.

A trick I learned is that you have to sing with a full (loud) voice. Just singing at a soft level doesn't help one improve much. Sounds like you and Tim have fun, I bet.
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:39 am (UTC)
We do. One of the things about Minneapolis conventions is that we have non-filk music circles. So that's definitely incentive to get audible, because there's lots of fun to be had with music and friends. Tim's got a great voice--huge range of notes, lots of stylistic range as well. He's naturally a bass-baritone but can push up to tenor stuff when the song calls for it. The natural bass-baritone means that he tunes lower (he's saving up for a baritone guitar), which is more comfortable for alto-contralto me--and singing in a more comfortable range helps me to have the confidence when I'm going against some of my bad early training.

For example, one of the things I was taught about singing as a little kid was to put your chin down when you're singing out loud. Seriously. Now, look at just about any singer, in any style, who is singing out loud. They throw their heads back, their chin is either neutral or up so that their airway is at maximum--and it totally makes sense when I think about it. But it's very hard to have this whole set of things that was ingrained as a tiny child that was absolutely dead wrong and have to unlearn it. Getting positive feedback from people I respect is really good on that.

Now a lot of times at holidays Tim will bring his guitar and mmerriam will bring his bass, and we'll do music in my parents' basement after Thanksgiving dinner or whatever. So that's good fun on a smaller scale than convention music circles.
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:50 am (UTC)
Maybe I can make it there sometime. Sounds like a blast. I'm a baritone, too. Play guitar nowadays. Don't have a bass any more.

Chin down? Jeez. Hope that music teacher has long since retired.

I've seen photos of Michael's bass. Yep, you guys do have fun!
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:52 am (UTC)
Here's a video I made on my last band, if you're curious.

Sep. 2nd, 2012 02:33 am (UTC)
Cool, thanks.
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:17 am (UTC)
None of my characters snort that I recall but one of mine does pshaw. I deleted a scene where one of my characters blows air out through her lips. People do do that but rarely so I try not to use it:D
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
I've had a character or two pish and pshaw! ;-)
Sep. 2nd, 2012 01:26 am (UTC)
Pishing and pshawing = good :-)
Sep. 2nd, 2012 12:33 pm (UTC)
Sounds logical to me. I snort when I know someone's lying, and so do my characters.
Sep. 2nd, 2012 12:39 pm (UTC)
That's cool. Because of this post, I'm going to have a character snort in my next story. Or the one after that. But I've got a feeling that some writers who read this will ponder their next fictional snort. Some might use it only to break my draconian five-year moratorium on snorting. ;-)
Sep. 3rd, 2012 08:03 pm (UTC)
I sometimes snort, when a short Hah! is inappropriate -- e.g. when someone came up with a really bad pun.

I also conscienntiously make sure not to use 'snort' as a speech tag.
Sep. 3rd, 2012 08:11 pm (UTC)
I tend to use "chuckle" too much. One or two uses are okay, four or five in a few thousand words and they stand out. Same with "snort," or "chortle" for that matter.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


Marshall Payne
Marshall Payne

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