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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FOUR CHARACTERS & VANILLA PUDDING

I’ve been working on a manuscript for nearly a year. It’s been a troubling experience and I don’t know why it’s proving so difficult although I have a couple of thoughts. One…it’s so different than anything I have ever written. I like light writing. Both previous books have been light with a just a pinch of serious seasoning. The one I’m trying to complete is precisely the opposite. Overall I’m happy but it is so dark in places that I sometimes don’t want to go there. I read the words but they don’t sound like me and although I think I did well I’m not comfortable with how it sounds. This is, I think, my second reason for having so much difficulty. I’m not me and a Snickers ain’t gonna help.

So, to take respite from my woeful endeavors, I opened up a few of my old starter files and discovered a whole new world, most of which I’d forgotten. The people that inhabit this place are just as new but they feel like old friends. The story-lines are interesting but undeveloped.

That’s where the four characters come in. They’re of the new but familiar kind of people and totally unrelated to my main writing project. They’re fresh and eager to be drawn out and I sense some gold just below the surface.

As I roughed out a bit of an introduction and an opening scene to this new project I found myself enjoying writing more than I have in months. It’s been almost a chore to sit at the keyboard as my lack of blog posting indicates. With each of these characters I can draw on my life’s experiences from my days in radio broadcasting to bookselling and everything in-between. I guess it goes back to writing what you know.

I’m not done with my current manuscript and it will be completed but I think it’s time for a vacation with four new friends that will let my imagination run wild.

I see a part of me in each of them and I’m anxious to throw them into situations that will bring out the best in them and hopefully serve up some old time philosophies and humor to boot. I’m intending this to be more like the first two books with different characters and perhaps a little mystery-solving thrown in to give them the stage.

A quick tease, which apparently I’m supposed to include in a blog, is vanilla pudding. It’s the first befuddlement of Ned, the personality I most identify with. He and I both feel that vanilla is the boring aunt of the pudding family, the smelly one you put up with because she’s rich and makes good cookies. It’s nice (and serves the purpose somewhat) but given their choice most people would move on to chocolate or butterscotch pudding. In the annals of dessert warfare vanilla is always the pudding left behind. Vanilla would say ‘You go on without me and save yourselves’ and the other puddings would go on without him and save themselves because vanilla was…well, vanilla.

Ah yes…there’s a certain comfort in writing about vanilla pudding.

SPACE

It’s all around us. There’s nothing in it or to it and, if left uninterrupted, it goes on forever. That’s why they call it space. You can’t see it of course but if you go straight up until you get past the birds and the blue and arrive at nothing…that’s it. The final frontier.

Space on terra firma has become a rather intimate thing. Everybody has their own space and some folks can get a tad cranky if they feel that you have somehow trespassed on their space. The problem is that it’s not exactly clear to me how far this space extends from the body. A foot, two feet…or is it metric space? Is it like a big round invisible bubble or is it a concise shape cut parallel to my dimensions? Does it follow the contours of my ins and outs (mostly outs these days) or does it plot a random course around my 70 year old celestial body? Do bigger people get more space than little people? If so then I don’t think that’s fair. We’re all created equal (or so I’ve heard) so we should each get the same amount of space. If some people want to fill it up with more of themselves then that’s their business.

So many, many questions…

If it’s a really hot day does my space expand? On a cold day does it shrivel up and become inner-space? When I lie down where does the behind me space go? Does it compress or just sort of squirt out the sides? If I go into a really small room does all of my space fit in there with me or is some of it still outside the door? If I sit in a movie theatre does my space and the space of the guy beside me overlap and intermingle? Actually that’s a rather disgusting thought.

Of course back in the sixties I was in a different space. It was a groovy space. It replaced my neato space of the fifties and paved the path for my polyester space of the seventies. The eighties saw the downsizing of my space due to kids arriving on the scene. It’s amazing how tiny creatures such as newborns can fill up what was once a vast space. But as a new parent I didn’t have any real space to call my own…except in the bathroom. That’s the last bastion of solitude for a dad. Nobody messed with my space when I took it into the bathroom.

That was so long ago. Now they’ve all gone on to their own universes and I have my space back.

It’s funny though…it doesn’t feel the same. The space continuum has been disturbed. Of course there are times when the kids and grandkids come by and play space invaders and that’s fine. Unlike the guy next to me in the theatre these space cadets are welcomed. I also know they’ve booked a return flight. Their mission ends at bedtime. That’s when I can return to my own space. Everybody needs someone in their space but everybody needs a little space to themselves sometimes.

It’s all about balance.

TRUMP….(sorry, I just have to)

I give up.

I generally avoid discussing politics either here or on social media but this time around I decided to test my toe in that turbulent torrent of turbidity. There’s an obvious target of course but writing about Donald Trump is akin to composing an unfinished symphony. I have drafted three posts but before I get them to the polishing stage Mr. Trump throws another sack of fodder into the trough. Honestly, it’s just too damn repetitive, silly, and depressing to pursue with any amount of enthusiasm. Add ‘easy’ to that list.

Coupled with President T’s confusing rhetoric is the influx of ‘fake’ news sites. These digital Enquirers pander to those who don’t have the wherewithal to spend a few moments researching real news. If you go by what you hear, even from some members of your own online circle, every news organization is fake or politically motivated. Even here in Canada news outlets from the CBC and CTV/ATV to my local paper present fake news or are bought and paid for by political parties…according to my catalogue of online friends. After careful consideration I have come to the conclusion that if the media doesn’t mate with your narrative then it is the media that is wrong.

Opinions are fine. I love opinions. That’s what this blog is. An opinion.

Opinions, however, are not always totally factual. An op-ed may be based on black and white fact but can easily be colored by the simple inclusion of the author’s opinion and sometimes separating the two can be difficult. That’s why we have to research.

As far as Mr. Trump is concerned I have to resort to my first line…I give up.

Following is the original blog I started two weeks ago. It’s a bit of a rant but I haven’t done that for a while so….

I tend to judge stories and comments based on presentation as much as content. If someone makes a point clearly and it sounds like they know what they’re talking about I’ll pay attention and often research what they have said. When it comes to Trump I usually don’t waste the time checking. When he uses phrases like “The CIA ‘are’…” I can forgive him. Fundamental English doesn’t build golden vanity towers I guess. When my grandchildren can spell better than he…well, I suppose I could blame the education system although I suspect he just didn’t pay attention. When he points to his head and says “Believe me, I’m really smart”…who is he trying to convince? If he was smart he would hire a communications secretary to look after his social media and try to keep him on track (or quiet) when there are cameras around. When he has to tweet that he is in charge…again, who is he trying to convince?

He has had many opportunities to correct the impression he made during the campaign. Instead he has taken every opportunity to show the world how self-obsessed he is. At a wall commemorating CIA members who gave the ultimate sacrifice once again he managed to make it all about himself. In his own words on video or Twitter he likened the same agency to Nazis yet it was ‘the enemy’, that ‘corrupt media’, that twisted his words. You said it Donald…on the internet and on camera. It doesn’t disappear because you delete or refute it.

When he can make a statement in a live, uncut interview then turn around and deny saying it, blaming the ‘dishonest media’ for taking something out of context or misinterpreting what he had to say, I know it’s only bull residue. When he can ‘tweet’ in the morning then six hours later unequivocally state that he never said it then, to my mind, there is a problem.

But, like it or not, Trump is the president. It’s as simple as that. I respect the position as I respect the position of Prime Minister of Canada. It’s unfortunate that the office and the person holding that office become one and the same. I’ve distantly dabbled in American politics since Eisenhower (yes, I’m that old) and I can’t recall any president disrespecting the position as much as Trump has. I’m sure presidents from JFK to Obama (and especially Nixon) dropped a few f-bombs in the privacy of the White House but they never did it live on national television.

Yet he was elected. What does this say about those who voted for him? That’s a question I won’t even try to answer. I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next four years and all those people tossing their comments around don’t know either. We can speculate but all the speculation in the world won’t alter what destiny has in store for not only America but the world.

He and his family all proudly state that Trump is the voice of the ‘common man’, Donald Jr. even commenting that his father was more blue-collar than the ‘average’ man. They’ve stepped on enough common men on their way up that I suppose they know what they’re talking about. Trump Sr. also declares that he’s building a cabinet of folks who understand ‘the common man’. Uh huh. Other than Mad Dog I’m not sure any of these people have ever experienced a ‘common’ lifestyle. To paraphrase…he drained the swamp and now he’s up to his ass in new alligators.

Some say ‘give him a chance…it’s early’. To a degree I agree although he was elected in November 2016. He’s had enough time to start acting presidential…to show respect for the office and the people. He’s had plenty of time to take off the campaign mask and show the kind of president he will be but he hasn’t…or has he?

If Trump can set up a government as transparent as he is then it could be an interesting four years but I doubt this will happen. He’s already backtracking on his promises. That bright light across America that you can see from space is the lightbulb coming on in the collective mind of his supporters.

 

MIND CLUTTER…..

My last blog referenced ‘mind clutter’ and this seems to be a good place to start.

It’s been three months since I posted and much of that time has been spent trying to figure out what to post. The purpose of this blog was to promote my books (both of which are still selling…thank you) but in researching reaction to my previous blogs there’s really no distinct pattern favoring any individual topic. My ramblings on wolves, books, music, renovations or shoes all seem to gather the same amount of interest which, in itself, is interesting.

So, with a quick reminder to check out my books on Amazon, let’s do some rambling and perhaps de-clutter a little.

I have a third book, perhaps three-quarters finished. I love everything about the story and the characters but I can’t seem to find the drive to finish it. Unlike the first two books which were loosely based on personal experience this one is total fiction and slips into areas requiring me to forsake my comfortable place and explore the inner thoughts and external emotions of characters with which I have trouble identifying.

Once I sit down and open the file I’m okay. I consider it a challenge to see a life, albeit fictional, through different eyes. I re-read what I have written and I like what I have done so far. I pick up where I left off and new words come easily but while I know where I want the story to go I have trouble driving it there. It seems every sentence or line of dialog I type takes me into a different direction, usually away from the intended conclusion.

There have been many times I’ve relegated this manuscript to the back burner and worked on a couple of different ideas but I’ve gone so far with this one that I feel the need to finish it. I suppose I have put undue pressure on myself as I made the mistake of hinting at the final outcome of the story in the first chapter. Eliminating that subtle spoiler at the beginning is a possibility but with 51,444 words already laid down the idea of going back through them all to correct any references to the original ending only serves up more pressure.

An unfinished story is a ghost that will never be set free until that final ‘save’. It just lies in wait somewhere in the furthest reaches of your mind, taunting and teasing until it commands your undivided attention. You could be sitting in a food court sipping a coffee when you realize that the person at the next table looks like your main character or you’ll hear someone talking and you’ll think ‘hey that’s something Corbin Wessler would say’. That’s the story beckoning, its spirit reaching through the mush and mayhem of conscious thought demanding to be noticed, insistent on the peace that only completion will bring.

Thank you for bearing with my venting. Oddly enough it has served to make me realize that I have to accept my self-declared challenge and buckle down to exorcise this demon.

COVER UP…..

….actually the insides are up too…finally! ‘Barking at Yesterday’s Moon’ is now available on Amazon as a trade paperback.

It’s been a learning experience but I’ve figured out what NOT to do the next time around. I’ve learned that the most important three words in writing are proof, proof, proof. When I got the initial download I immediately checked for those nagging formatting errors and found quite a few. Pages containing only two words, justified lines with far too much space between the words or blank pages where the ‘page-breaks’ were too close to the bottom of the previous page…fun stuff like that. While going through this process I discovered a few errors not related to the formatting and changed those. The second time through I was looking for those little mistakes and found three, one of which made me shudder. It was the use of “your” instead of “you’re” which is one of those things that drive me nuts, like “their” and “they’re”. Such simple mistakes but such unallowable mistakes. I found nothing on the third proofing but did a fourth anyway. The lesson to me was to do the proofing in a different format than the full page Word document. Switching the text to the format in which it will appear gives a different perspective and it’s surprising what it reveals. While I still have to select a portion of ‘Barking at Yesterday’s Moon’ to use as a preview I consider the final upload to Amazon a bit of an accomplishment.

With this part behind me I’ve returned to a manuscript I worked with for a few months, one I really wasn’t fussy about originally. Perhaps it was the time I spent away from it while putting this one to bed but I’m feeling better about it now. I can see so many possibilities and directions and I’m looking forward to diving back into it.

For now though I’m getting caught up on blogs and facebook…and maybe a little yardwork.

STOP THE WORLD….

Time to clear the air….
I’m not responding to a lot of facebook posts anymore. Simply because…
I’m tired of conspiracy theorists.
I’m tired of hearing how Canada as we know it is doomed under Trudeau. Let’s get real here. It wouldn’t have mattered who got elected the gloom and doom crowd would have been tossing their uneducated prophecies ad nauseum anyway.
I’m tired of fifteen year old photographs/stories showing up as current fact even though they have been proven to be hoaxes for at least a decade. Check the facts before you post.
I’m tired of the assumption that if I respond negatively to a story then I’m anti-something. Other than Macaulay Culkin and aforementioned conspiracy theorists I don’t dislike anyone. If I choose to not ‘like’ your comments it has nothing to do with your religion, social status, sexual preferences or race. It’s simply because I don’t agree with your comment. If you have a problem with me not falling in line behind you then…like I said, it’s your problem.
I recently ‘unfriended’ someone because of our different views regarding one of his posts. It was regarding recruitment to form a march on the Alberta Legislature to protest the NDP Government. Let me tell you up front I’m a child of the Sixties and I am all for peaceful protest and, if I felt strongly enough about an issue, I would join the sit-in, signs and all. In this case, for me, there was a lot to be wary of. First the photograph of a flag-waving man atop an excavator posed rebelliously against a bright blue sky. Then comes the text containing a list of “I love my:”s…everything from oil sands to farming, guns to freedom. The way I see it trying to encourage a ‘peaceful’ demonstration yet feeling the need to throw ‘guns’ in there is somewhat counter-productive but it is the ‘freedom’ part that really sticks with me. The fact that we have the freedom to gather on the government’s doorstep and protest is a freedom not granted in many countries around this world. You HAVE your freedom and it was that freedom you expressed when you voted that party into office. You also have the freedom to vote them out and if you want to peacefully protest everything they do until you can kick them to the curb then go for it. When I read the original post I went back through the comments from the Bundy camp in Oregon and everything from content to presentation was eerily similar and I stated that in my response. I did receive the expected pro-Bundy style responses but then my comment was deleted. It appears the poster didn’t like being compared to the home grown terrorists on the other side of the border. The original post remained however so I have to assume he supports this type of thing. I don’t support it so I ‘unfriended’ someone for the first time in all the years I have been on facebook.
In the old days (yes I hate those words too but in this case it fits) if anyone managed to get a public forum it was through recognized media and they were required to adhere to certain standards but thanks to the internet anyone can now have their moment in the spotlight. Generally this is a good thing but as this forum also provides a stage for the wack-a-doos it is up to the reader to investigate what you see and read.
A couple of years back a fellow by the name of Bill Schoel posted on a wildlife site regarding the BC government’s policy of aerial-gunning down wolves and how it was a necessity because (according to the writer) a friend of his had seen his dogs torn apart by a pack of wolves in downtown Kamloops, BC. Coincidentally I live in Kamloops and I’m pretty sure I would have heard about this incident. Further investigation revealed that Bill lives in Maryland and continually posts idiotic comments to stir the flames. There are a lot of people like Bill who post under false names or simply anonymously to fill some sort of void in their lives but it’s when you see the responses these posts get you realize how easily unthinking people get wrapped up in stuff like this. If I remember correctly a dozen or so hunters responded that they were ready to camp out in Kamloops to gun down those vermin. A simple search of the local news outlets online would have proven the story false and they wouldn’t have looked like the idiots they most certainly are.
Memes falsely accredited to famous people, altered photographs, misleading headlines, totally laughable conspiracy theories, sponsored comments, and outright fiction is flooding social media and it now becomes the responsibility of the reader to validate everything before accepting anything these days.
If you believe that the government is spraying chemicals in the air to ‘dumb-down’ the public then fine. I think it’s simply that through social media the dumbed-down segment of the public that has always been there now has an unfiltered voice and a built-in audience that, back in the days of responsible journalism, would have remained silent.
Off my soapbox now.
I have been scarce on both this blog and the facebook pages lately due to a few things but mostly I’m working on a third book (which isn’t going as well as the first two) and the finalizing of the second book. I’m on the third read-through of the print-proof of ‘Barking at Yesterday’s Moon’ and it should be uploaded in a few days. It is available as an ebook on Amazon.
To those whose blogs I usually follow on a regular basis I apologize for my absence but hopefully I can get back into the rhythm soon…although as Evan Morris says in “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon”:
“Things change and the sooner you realize that life isn’t perfect…that everything isn’t going to magically fall into place when you get all those ducks in a row the better off you’ll be. Every step we take in life has its own trials and tribulations. After we get those sorted out we take that next step and…more wandering ducks.”