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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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.

A LITTLE VOICE TOLD ME I WAS WRONG….

My old desktop computer had a text-to-speech feature that I don’t have on the laptop I’m using now. I never used the feature anyway so I wasn’t concerned about upgrading or downloading it when I set up this computer. A few years ago I bought a home music studio program to record a few songs for my own entertainment. This program (Music Maker) has the text-to-speech option but other than trying some special effects on my music I didn’t use it…until now.

This morning I decided to put the first three pages of my new manuscript into the program. I listened while a pleasant, if not somewhat static, female voice read it to me. Aside from a few words that had double meanings (wind as an example) and mispronouncing both the main character’s names she did quite well. Keep in mind these are pages that I have gone through twice, checking for errors and flow, and I was prepared to sit back and just enjoy having someone read me the story.

This isn’t quite what happened.

First she found the missing word “a” in what I had written (“brief career as writer/singer”). That’s one of those things I had read over countless times and just read it as being there. Then the little lady found an ellipse that wasn’t and read it as “period, period, period” although I find it funny that she doesn’t read aloud the single periods or other punctuation. The non-ellipse, I believe, was the result of me switching the language on the keyboard, something that happens frequently although I’m not sure how I’m doing it. This became clear when she read “he’d” as “he-accent-dee”.

She also repeated a line and corrected my grammar by removing the “s” from a word. (“Evan had toured the exhibition of those ‘exciting new visions’ but had seen nothing of note in any of the pieces, most resembling his own failed attempts in Grade Nine art class. He guessed it must be an age thing. With so many years behind his eyes his ‘visions’ probably aren’t what they used to be.”) Out of context she was right…but the “s” stays.

I also found that when you hear sentences transferred to speech you pick up on clumsy wording and I’ve smoothed a few lines out that actually sounded fine in my head but not-so-fine out loud.

I’ve nearly finished tweaking the whole manuscript but I’m throwing another step into the process. Once done I’m going to find a quiet place, throw on the headphones, and let this charming computer lady read me the whole book and see if she finds anything else I’ve missed.

For those that have the Word (or any version of) text-to-speech I suggest giving it a try. It reads exactly what’s there and assumes nothing.

Writers today are fortunate. We have a wealth of wonderful computer tools to assist us with our passion. Text-to-speech has just been added to my list.

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THANK YOU JOE SOUTH!

I love it when I have one of those ‘out-of-the-blue’ and ‘ain’t-that-weird’ moments.

I’m in the process of tweaking a scene where my main character Evan Morris goes back to Edmonton, Alberta…the city he called home before he moved to Kamloops. I started off by walking him down a once-familiar street but then I hit a bit of a block and found myself wondering where I was going to take the internal narrative. I resorted to one of my usual distractions.

When I stumble with writing I’ll sometimes pick up a guitar and just strum random chords and stare at the screen. Normally it doesn’t take long to come up with something but today I found myself listening more to the chords I was playing and I realized that they weren’t all that random.

It took me a while to figure out the melody but when I did my ‘ain’t-that-weird’ moment arrived.

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It was a song I learned back in 1969 titled “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” written by Joe South. This is a song I haven’t really thought about for thirty or so years but it came back so easily and quickly. Of all the random chords or songs that those chords could have represented this was the one that I needed it to be. As I played it and recalled the lyrics I stared at my computer screen and everything started to come together.

Inspiration sometimes comes from the damnedest places doesn’t it?

http://www.joesouth.com/

CYNOSURE

I admit to using the “synonym” feature in Word. It’s a handy little tool that I utilize to substitute a word in a sentence (or replace a word, swap a word, trade a word or interchange a word) that I feel I’ve overused. Usually I can come up with my own different word but that little synonym tool sometimes comes in handy although I will still choose the most common replacement and here’s why.

“The Grey wolf is the cynosure of the wilderness.” is the opening sentence in a blog that I just finished reading. “Cynosure” isn’t a word I use in my regular life and it isn’t one that I would use in anything I wrote. First, it sounds pretentious and second I’m not sure how many people would know what it means (a person or thing that attracts notice, especially because of its brilliance or beauty). It was on a ‘word-of-the-day calendar I once had so I’m familiar with the word but I appreciate that a lot of people might have to google it if I chose to drop “cynosure” into a sentence.

“The elk were deliberately traversing the field below…” This line threw me as well. Do these elk normally “traverse” a field unintentionally thus making this deliberation something unusual? Through context I established that the elk were slowly crossing the field…at least I think that was what the writer was trying to say. Why didn’t he just say it? While “deliberately” is indeed a synonym for “slowly” in this case it changes the meaning of the whole sentence, at least to me. Yes I suppose it is grammatically correct but sometimes you have to re-read what you write the way that a reader might…and this line just felt funny. Perhaps it’s just the way I interpreted it but I think others might read it the same way that I did and that’s not what the writer should want.

I don’t consider myself an expert writer but of all the good comments I’ve received on White Wolf Moon the one that pleases me most is that it’s “an easy read”.

An author should write for his market. My market just wants to escape into someone else’s world for a while…to be entertained and perhaps have a laugh or a cry. They shouldn’t have to work at figuring out what I have to say.

Okay my little rant is done…back to my book. Right now I have Evan traversing the scullery flooring surface en route to the coffee-manufacturing apparatus with the intent of filling a demitasse with his usual ante meridiem beverage.

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PLEASE WAIT…UPGRADING TO EVAN3.0….

A friend of mine asked why I haven’t been posting to those anti-wolf pages lately. Apparently my doing battle with those ‘people’ provides some comic relief to Lindsey’s day. I no longer get into it with them for various reasons…not the least of which is that they won’t let me.

Those that haven’t figured out how to permanently prevent me from posting anything will quickly delete any comment I do manage to upload but that’s okay. To me every ‘delete’ is a victory. I appreciate I’ve made fools of some of them (actually they did it themselves, they just needed a little nudge from me), especially with my Berton Hernie gag (see previous blog). This resulted in my not being allowed to post on pretty well any of their pages. It seems the word got around fast.

On one page I even offered to help them create better photo-shop images as the one they presented was really poorly done. My offer was deleted, as was the photograph.

The capper was the photo post of a chubby li’l grey-haired dude with oversized gloves and badly stitched wolf that shows up every six months or so. Depending on which page you choose to blindly believe this poor wolf weighs anywhere from 135 to 210 pounds and has been shot in Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, Alberta, and two undisclosed locations (‘cos the hunter is scared the pro-wolf folks are going to burn down his house or come after his kids). That wolf gets around more than George Clooney yet each time this same old picture shows up we get the same old outlandish comments from the same old people that either have a really short memory or haven’t got the smarts to realize they’ve been had (which, based on Berton Hernie, is the more likely explanation).

Those tired stories, phony photos, and cries of conspiracy have echoed through the canyons of their minds for two years. It’s all become so boring, insulting, and abundantly clear to anyone who has a modicum of intelligence that these folks have their wheels stuck in the ruts of some long forgotten wagon trail and missed the turn-off to the twenty-first century.

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What has this got to do with my book? Growth…in particular with my characters. Like the stagnant content of the above mentioned pages, re-occurring fictional characters need to be updated…refreshed, if you will. 85,000 additional words without bringing new life to the people you rely on to keep the story moving won’t cut it with readers.

The fictional time span between events in the first book and this one is only two weeks so really how much can a character grow in fourteen days? Surprisingly…a lot.

Introducing unexpected emotions, actions or previously undisclosed facts can bring a fresh interpretation to a character. Those that thought they knew Evan in White Wolf Moon will discover that there’s more to him than he revealed the first time around. He finds himself in a less-than-legal activity and involved in situations where he can’t simply play the “peace” card and walk away. Although it’s only been two weeks he has grown immeasurably as have the other characters around him, including Ginn the wolf-dog.

I’m more than familiar with Evan (in essence I’ve lived with him most of my life) but this is Evan3.0…an upgraded form of the one I’ve grown to love. It was uncomfortable at first, especially as there is no “help” file accompanying this version, but I’m getting the hang of it. Placing him in activities I’m unfamiliar with has required me to research various and sundry locations and laws but that’s my part of the growth process.

I have a lot of flexibility (this is fiction after all) but unlike those pages I mentioned at the beginning I prefer my fiction to be at least credible.