DIALOGUE or DIRE LOG?

Da way Oi sees it dat dire log gotta be true to dat guy speakin’ y’know?

After reading countless guides and articles I have come to realize that there are many differences of opinion when it comes to writing dialogue in an accent or dialect. I remember reading some of the respected names in literature back in school and their proficiency with the English language flew out the window when it came to some of their colloquial characters. Mark Twain is the first that comes to mind but I recall others who wrote of the Southern States in the 1800s where regional dialects were often thick and confusing.

Current wisdom appears to be that dialect should be kept to a minimum and a few experts have even suggested that you explain that the character speaks with an accent but the actual written dialogue should be presented in proper Queen’s English. I prefer the minimal approach.

In my current writing project I have a character that suffers speech issues due to an accident that damaged the Broca’s area of his brain. With this, and his outwardly awkward and backwoods appearance, he comes off as a bit of a buffoon but in reality is a well-read, philosophical and intelligent man. His overwhelming frustration of knowing what to say combined with the inability to communicate his thoughts accurately and concisely leads to other issues that I won’t get into here.

It probably took you close to five seconds of work to read the first line of this blog.

‘The way I see it the dialogue has to be true to the character’ is much easier and faster to read and that, I believe, is the secret.

The reader. It has to be easy for the reader to grasp the dialogue at a normal reading speed. Unusual spelling or made up words fight the flow of the experience to the point that reading becomes a bit of a chore. That’s the last thing we, as authors, should want.

Writing the voice for my main character has been the biggest trial. Invariably I start with far more complicated and scattered dialogue and keep paring it back until it moves along like those other voices, most of which speak pretty good English.

Here is a sample of the upcoming book:

Annalee reached across and took the book from his hands. “You read that as perfectly as anyone could Fergus. I’m impressed”

“So I passed?”

“With an A plus.”

“No big deal, it’s easy.” Fergus shrugged. “Don’t have to think on what I say ‘cos the book tellin’ me the words y’know? That whole thinkin’ thing is what mess me up sometimes, gettin’ ahead of myself an’ stuff. It comes to readin’ and I just gotta concentrate and say what the book says to say, thass all.”

Hopefully you found it easy to follow.

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COMFORT ZONE….

“Barking at Yesterday’s Moon” is online. Another chapter in my writing life has closed and it’s time to start anew. While there is still a lot of work to do with getting some exposure and working a bit of marketing I can’t bring myself to not have a Word document open. I have to be working on something and my read-through of the Kindle version of “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon” provided me with another storyline. It involves some of the ‘walk-on’ characters from one of the scenes.

Being ‘walk-ons’ in no way diminished their importance to the storyline. The roles they played, while not central figures, provided insight into the main characters and created some interesting scenes. One character in particular made his appearance early in the book, created a little havoc then disappeared. The more I thought about this man the more I realized there is a story behind who and what he is and how he got there. I decided to flesh out his story and it came surprisingly easy.

Unless you have read “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon” the name Fergus Lloyd would mean nothing. If you have read it then you already have an opinion of Fergus and what he is all about. As in reality and with real people an opinion based on first impression is often wrong. The well-spoken, well-dressed banker might have some questionable material on his computer and that street person might have a heart of gold. You just never know what’s behind their public faces. Fergus wasn’t always the Fergus that confronted Evan and exploring his life has provided some interesting research and excitingly addictive writing.

From the outset of the first draft I had to expand my comfort zone. I prefer to write light and with a sometimes questionable sense of humor and while there are some lighter moments in this story there is also an underlying darkness. This was a challenge for me and a welcome brain-teaser. Then came the scene that I believed would be the pivotal point of the story. Without getting into detail the young boy discovers something horrific in the woods and all his childhood nightmares come back and…never mind. I’ve already said too much.

Suffice to say that this scene completely ripped me out of my comfort zone and threw me headfirst into the horror/psychological terror genre, one that I’ve never explored. Blood, gore, and childhood nightmares wreak havoc with my usual style of writing and way of thinking. After I wrote it I would wake at night and think about it. Each time I rehashed it in my mind I became less impressed. It sounded forced, manipulative, and not at all like me. A week later I wrote an alternate scene where someone else stumbles on the terror and relays it second hand in a more sterile manner. I was more at ease with the revision and I sentenced the original storyline to life in my ‘not used’ folder and continued writing.

One of the elements of writing a story based on a previously introduced character is maintaining continuity with the original. That wasn’t all that difficult in this case but as the new story progressed I realized that I was missing something. The emotional development (or destruction) of this character wasn’t strong enough to result in the character traits featured in “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon”. The crisis, real or imagined, that set him on my created path hadn’t occurred. I opened up my ‘not used’ file, read the original scene and knew that it had to be included. I also learned the value of putting something aside and revisiting it later. I actually like what I wrote back then and with a little work it will become that pivotal scene. It just goes to show the value of never throwing anything away.

On a side note: My age is showing…I welcomed my seventh grandchild into this world on September 3, 2015. Mum and son are doing well.

Shameless self-promotion side note: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0143ZI4W8?ref_=pe_1724030_132998070

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