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  1. #1
    Stewart Knight
    Guest

    International dialogue

    Dear All,

    This is a general query for all writers around the world, but it may prove relevant for all us too.

    Does anyone else have difficulty finding dialogue perspectives to transfer to an international audience?

    I'm in the UK and my book/s are action adventure type, the characters are mainly British and they have specific ways of talking and acting, including humour. If I want to make them authentic how in general does this translate to say US readers?

    For example one man may say, "Knock his loaf off." This is real speak in the UK and a UK audience would understand, the 'loaf' being the 'loaf of bread=head' rhyming slang that's used over here. That's just an example and not a very good one, but I'm sure you get the picture. How does everybody else handle this?

    Finally, this craft section should be inundated with new topics judging from the amount of rejections we 'apparently' get, so where are the questions and discussion topics?

    Come on you lot!

    Regards
    Stewart



  2. #2
    Bly Oxford
    Guest

    Re: International dialogue

    Hi Stewart,
    Regarding your question of diction translation; I think the writer has to trust the reader to understand. If we try to homogenize our dialog so that it is understandable to everyone, we are going to have nothing but weak skim milk. In Orinoco, I have a Mexican Senora who speaks no English, but her daughter does. When the old witch issues a dictum in Spanish, Ramona, the daughter says, "No, Madre, I will not do so and so..." in English. This adds a little flavor to the differences of characters, but if all your characters are British, simply let them talk in UK speak, the reader will figure it out.

    Bly

  3. #3
    Matt Locke
    Guest

    Re: International dialogue

    I think the only time it becomes a problem is if you go to extreme lengths, like Anthony Burgess in Clockwork Orange. But, he did make up most of those words, so...

    But you'd be surprised to find how many US readers understand slang from other countries-slang is almost a universal language, and if it is real, then people will understand it. It's nothing to worry about.

  4. #4
    kanani
    Guest

    Re: International dialogue

    I think if you're setting your characters in the UK, then by all means, let them speak as they would. Yes, trust your reader to be able to understand what is being conveyed by the events that are happening around the characters. Afterall, if I was writing a story about surfers in California, I'd probably write, "Whoa! You rode that gnarly wave like one righteous dude!" I would NOT write: "Well! You handled that wave with exceptional fortitude! "

  5. #5
    louise wise
    Guest

    Re: International dialogue

    I agree, if your character is a Brit then he must speak British. Do not patronize other countries by believing they will not understand.
    The amount of American books I have read leads me not to be offended by the word "fanny", and I wouldn't like them to chnage the word to bum or bottom because they might think I was offended or unable to understand.

  6. #6
    Kanani Fong
    Guest

    Re: International dialogue

    As an American (and a Southern Californian at that, which forces me into yet another category!) I have to admit, that the only word I really had a difficult time understanding was the word snogging, snogged, or snog. I understand what it is, I'm just not sure there is an American equivalent. But then I haven't dated in quite awhile, either.
    : )

  7. #7
    Patricia Cooper
    Guest

    Re: International dialogue

    I must reiterate what Louise wrote: don't patronise your countries, and please don't patronise your readers. You also have to ensure that the language, idioms, etc. have to be true to both the country and the time. Anachronisms in language are just as bad as anachronisms that creep into novels set in a different time. I am currently 45,000 words into a mainstream novel set in WW2. It is a challenge as it is written for an adult market but through a child's perspective. I have spent hours researching the appropriate phrases and sayings (or trying to remember them!) Words such as whizzo, coo-er, and even "fains" (does any Brit over the age of 50 remember that at school?

    I know that if I put in any more modern idioms, then I will get a bezillion letters from readers. (Provided I manage to get published that is, and so give them the opportunity to 'haul me over the coals'.

    By the way -- any WW2 sayings or pearls of wisdom would be gratefully received.

    patC

  8. #8
    Bly Oxford
    Guest

    Re: International dialogue

    I'm sure jerry-rigged came from WWII, and probably SNAFU.
    Bly

  9. #9
    Patricia Cooper
    Guest

    Re: International dialogue

    Thanks Bly -- and for your e-mails. Any other ideas, particularly what children would have said during the war years. But not swear words. Exclamations such as super, bang-on, I'm dished, etc. etc. I need schoolyard dialogue of a prep school nature.

    patC

  10. #10
    Bly Oxford
    Guest

    Re: International dialogue

    Hi Pat,
    This net business gets confusing at times. We are truly international here, but in our local zone I never know what is relevant to other parts of the world. Today, with the controversy circling about San Francisco's Board of Supervisors okaying the medical costs of the transgender people, I started searching for the first case on which I have a report. He/she was Christine Jorgenson from The Bronx, NY. I thought the change came in the forties, but it was the fifties. Anyway I found this in the Newsweek thumbnails of the forties. I don't know if England had the zoot suits, but this is a discription of the suit. "A zoot suit with a reat pelat, with a drape shape, and a stuff cuff." The jacket--knee length, 3 to 6 inches of padding at the shoulders; Trousers--reaching to the armpits, 32 inches at the knee, tapering to narrow cuff. 1942
    And the kids of today are trying to immulate THAT! No that's wrong, kids' pants today don't reach the armpits, they like to show the posterior. Weird, ain't it.
    Bly

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