Monday, March 28, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays - Where you from?

Dialect: a regional variety of language distinguished by features of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation from other regional varieties and constituting together with them a single language.
Great, so how do you get a dialect across in your writing? The best way I’ve found is by using the KISS theory. Keep It Simple Stupid. There is no need to start rattling off Scottish or Spanish phrases to prove your character is from another country. In fact, since it’s a braw, bricht, moonlicht th nicht, why don’t we explore this a bit more?
Did you just stumble a bit there? Probably, I know I did even as I wrote it. (Scottish translation courtesy Pamela Wench – it’s a cold, bright, moonlit night tonight) A few key words will let the reader know this person is from somewhere else without making them struggle to find meaning in the words. Stumbling your way through an accent so thick you would have trouble understanding it even if it were read aloud to you, can turn your readers off – fast. Personally, I read fiction for the pleasure of becoming lost in a world of someone else’s creation, not for language lessons.
“Wipe that silly smirk off your face, I will not be found like this!” Her voice came out in a strangled hiss. She tried to make her way to the far side of the stream, to the concealment the bushes there offered.
Iain found himself chuckling, “Och, tis a fine temper ye have. I knew yer passions would run deep.”
A mischievous grin hovered near the corner of her mouth, one brow cocked. “Not as deeply as yours. Now help me out before the whole of the world knows what we have been doing.”
Pleasure at her unabashed response filled him and turned his chuckle into a laugh. He boosted her up onto the steep edge, taking the time to give her bottom a gentle caress. “Dinnae wander too far. I still have questions only ye can answer. Ye ken?”

The man is from Scotland, the woman from England. His every word does not ooze Scotland, but enough do for the imagination to seize on them and fill in the rest. I’ve chosen to leave out the accent for her so I don’t overwhelm readers with two distinct dialects. For her I try to convey her nationality by how she phrases things. So, there are various ways to express different accents and varying degrees of them as well.
Use the internet. There are so many sources out there for writers. Just Google, ‘How to write with a (fill in the blank) accent’ and search through what comes up. Tap any friends you have who have lived, or been to the place you want to capture. Getting a dialect right can add another layer of reading pleasure, putting the reader in a whole different environment and giving them the chance to travel vicariously to new locales.
Whether your characters are from Brooklyn, the Deep South, Rome or England, let a bit of their local color shine through in how they speak. Just a touch will do.
Rain :)


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