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  1. #1
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    Short question on first person writing...

    Hi Everyone. I just wanted some input on something. If you're writing a story in first person and you're in a narrative section, do you write everything as the POV character would? Grammatical mistakes on all?

    Thanks!



  2. #2
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    As a general rule, I tell people to write how the MC talks, not how he would write. But if it's the MC's diary or something like that, then of course, you write how he writes. If the MC's uneducated, you tone down the errors enough so it doesn't hinder the reading too much, but still conveys his lack of education. I advise conveying this sort of thing primarily through wording and structure, not spelling and grammar errors. This is what Twain did.

  3. #3
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    Thanks John.

    The question is about how to write the following sentence in a story:

    a: If it were true?
    b: If it was true?

    Since the subject is singular was (b) seems to be the correct answer. But I was always taught if you're talking about the possibility of something happening, you should use were, so (a) is correct. If it's not, I'd like to know lol.

    Anyway, the story is narrated by a 14-year-old boy, so I decided to use If it was true?. I think he'd say it that way, regardless. Thanks again.

  4. #4
    Member Tanya Bell's Avatar
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    That's a difficult one. You have to make your character believable via his speech, but not enough to annoy the reader. I'm thinking of some books -- Lady Chatterley's Lover, for instance -- where the dialect of one of the main characters (the gamekeeper) is so heavily laid on that's it's difficult to understand and irritating.
    One step at a time.

  5. #5
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    Thanks Tanya.

  6. #6
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Tinman View Post
    Thanks John.

    The question is about how to write the following sentence in a story:

    a: If it were true?
    b: If it was true?

    Since the subject is singular was (b) seems to be the correct answer. But I was always taught if you're talking about the possibility of something happening, you should use were, so (a) is correct. If it's not, I'd like to know lol.

    Anyway, the story is narrated by a 14-year-old boy, so I decided to use If it was true?. I think he'd say it that way, regardless. Thanks again.
    "If it were true" is correct, but yeah, a 14-year-old would probably say "if it was true" because it "sounds" right.
    Last edited by John Oberon; 04-23-2012 at 04:09 AM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Herman Munster's Avatar
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    Taking an over view of the subject, I doubt I would be too finicky with the MC if they do most of the story. I am not that flash with grammar and grandpa so I don't always pickup the errors but when I do see one or three, I don't wanna see 100.

    With introduced characters, especially where they may be using English as a second, thrid, fourth or fifth language I cna be generous in their favour, as it happens in real life.
    Here is the #2 MC with a floater:

    "“Mrs Bet, Mrs Bet, Mrs Bet, what is the with you wrong matter?” She spluttered out in her famous broken and mixed English. This again hurt her relationship with her peers. They would even make fun of her, no one ever sat down and tried to help or correct her. No one gave her his or her time.
    “I am fine Mrs Rosa, just fine. I found something to laugh at, finally, and it got away from me.” Bet replied easily.
    “Me worry, fink you have you issued. You must push beel if problem.” Rosa half scolded her.
    “Rosa I am fine, just happy.”
    “Happy is goooood!” Rosa smiled widely. “Your boy is be lead away, Suggy is bad dog for making him go way long.”

  8. #8
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    Slippery Slope

    Quote Originally Posted by The Tinman View Post
    Hi Everyone. I just wanted some input on something. If you're writing a story in first person and you're in a narrative section, do you write everything as the POV character would? Grammatical mistakes on all?

    Thanks!
    Speaking in dialect (whether first person or character) is introducing a slippery slope. If possible, draw such a complete picture of a character that you don't have to revert to dialect. Once you do, you never know how much is too much or how little is enough.

    If you read THE HELP, you will see that there is almost no dialect used, but the characters are so finely drawn, you hear the regionality of the conversations.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by BookWerm View Post
    Speaking in dialect (whether first person or character) is introducing a slippery slope. If possible, draw such a complete picture of a character that you don't have to revert to dialect. Once you do, you never know how much is too much or how little is enough.
    BookWerm. I agree that it's easy to overdo the colloquialisms, but I think you can go too far the other way and make the dialogue too sanitized. There's wide latitude in between the extremes, not only for some regional dialect and non-standard speech, but the way the dialogue is constructed for characters from different environments and differing levels of education. The key (for me, at least) is if the dialogue is hard to follow or distracting --the tolerance for that varies from reader to reader and might also depend on the type or genre of novel.

  10. #10
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    I try to create dialogue with grammar rather than dialect. The educated person might say, "he arrived promptly."

    A less educated person would probably say, "he got there in plenty of time."

    If you just start thinking of the words the character would actually use, the dialogue will write itself.

    However, when I listen to an audiobook, I enjoy a good narrator doing dialect.

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