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  1. #1
    Brandon Cleveland

    Okay - question on dialogue

    When I write, I want to write in character - spelling the way a word sounds. But is it right?

    Example -

    'Fa sho. I already tol' the mutha****a what the haps was, but he still kept comin' at a muh****a.'


    'For sure. I already told the mother****er what the haps was, but he still kept coming at a mother****er.'

    I think the red lines are throwing me off and making me feel wrong. Please - your advice.

  2. #2
    d. Leroy

    Re: Okay - question on dialogue

    Me personally, I don't mind the spelling of the sound over the proper spelling of the word - I do it.

    But don't over do it. Nothing irritates me more than when I'm reading a story and have to spend 20 minutes deciphering a chunck of dialogue. If it's a lot, just let the reader know "he spoke with a heavy British accent", then spell the words correctly - we'll figure it out. Hell, I don't think most us actually care.

    I matters most, of course, when you're trying to establish a characters persona, they're speech patterns, etc. Again, nothing wrong with it, sometimes it's necessary, just don't overdo it.


  3. #3
    Gregory White

    Re: Okay - question on dialogue

    I say go somewhere in between the two. The first choice made me think there that was no way I could read an entire book that was that heavily "dialected".

    the second, not enough to demonstrate the character's speech pattern.

    Try simply starting the second choice with
    "Fa sho" instead of "for sure" ---- keep in the "haps" and leave the rest in normal spelling. The very first words set the tone.


  4. #4
    Atlantic Beach

    Re: Okay - question on dialogue

    Heavily dialected dialogue is a chore to read and sounds self-conscious. If I notice it, it's too much.

    You don't have to use made up words to get the speech and cadence. Read writers who do it well: Richard Price in LUSH LIFE,where he meshes voices of kids from the projects, cops, MFA wannabes etc.; Alice Walker in THE COLOR PURPLE; Grace Paley who told whole short stories only in dialogue; anything by Elmore Lenard.

  5. #5
    Arden Wolfe

    Re: Okay - question on dialogue

    Write it out properly. The trick is to get the dialogue to tell the accent or area of original that the speaker hails.

    This is called regional speak.

    "I got Moonshine in the still."

    What region and accent is the speaker?

    "Would you like a spot of tea?"

    Again, what accent and region?

    Yes, I could have written, "Y'all wont sum Moonshine?" But really - which is more effective?

    Just something to consider.


  6. #6
    Arden Wolfe

    Re: Okay - question on dialogue

    On a side note, yes the method you speak of Brandon used to be very en vogue during the eighties and early nineties. But it has fallen out of favor since those days.

    Again, avoid it.


  7. #7
    Gregory White

    Re: Okay - question on dialogue

    once again, I'd have to say neither, but in the middle. instead:

    "Ya'll want some moonshine?" (ya'll being the only indicator)

    (by the way, Nashville, TN here but I am originally from Kentucky. While I DO and often say "Ya'll", I also wasn't raised in a sod house in the woods.

    there's a difference between a drawl and all-out hick talk.

    so, again, in the middle.


  8. #8
    Arden Wolfe

    Re: Okay - question on dialogue

    I can reference three books and two agent blogs that say not to do it, if you like.


  9. #9
    L Bea

    Re: Okay - question on dialogue

    I agree that it USED to be done but it's not the way it's done now. It's hokey, if you ask me. I've read books like that and it's annoying. It made me have to stop and frickin' translate--what the hell did he just say? Better to use poor grammar and words/phrases that pertain as Arden showed to illustrate the character's dialect rather than the literal dialect.


  10. #10
    Anthony Ravenscroft

    Re: Okay - question on dialogue

    So-called "dialect narrative" has recurred for a couple of centuries. In fiction, seems like all it takes in one good example to set off hundreds of half-arsed imitators.

    It's a gimmick, Gimmicks are bad enough in the hands of established authors, & usually deadly for someone trying to get first publication.

    As others have said, you'd be better off indicating ethnicity or social class or whatever through word choice, grammar, cadence, & so on, with only a few odd bits of punctuation here & there.

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