December 20th, 2009
|10:56 am - Poll on writing dialect|
This is for a fic, sort of, but it's something I've been wondering for a while. How do you other writers work this?
How should dialect be approached in dialogue?
Write it out somewhat phonetically, so the readers can "hear" it.
What are you talking about, just use normal spelling and rely on readers' knowledge of the source.
Make sure any obvious syntactical differences are there and keep it standard otherwise.
Other, which I will elaborate on in the comments.
Current Mood: busy
All things in moderation. I think it's good to point out a few differences, maybe spell a few things phonetically in text to point it out, if the POV character is noticing the accent particularly. Like: "She spoke with a sweet southern drawl, all 'How y'all doin', Mistuh Winchestuh...'" But I try to mostly leave it to the reader. It gets annoying to read written-out dialect all the time, and can be dense and confusing.
Oh, goodness, the number of times I had to reread certain passages of Huck Finn before I understood what Jim was saying... :D
Anyway, that's my two cents. Interesting question!
|Date:||December 20th, 2009 07:45 pm (UTC)|| |
Sounds good. Yeah, I'd worry more if I had an outsider character--instead, I'm just in the position of trying to learn to write Manchester-speak, which all the characters have (unless they're obviously from elsewhere, like the reporter with the mile-thick Scottish brogue).
I might drop the "g" on some "ing" words if that were appropriate. I'm known for sticking "eh" in conversations with people from Minnesota. I try to bring in flavor, but I'd never spell out anything the way it sounds.
Should be conveyed mostly through word choice, but go ahead and drop an apostrophe in there if you really need it.
What everybody else said. :)
Word choice and syntax always "read" best to me. I'd only change spellings or drop letters if it's something widely used or would look stilted otherwise ("gonna", "s'all", "y'know") Changing vowels to represent an accent really gets on my nerves, 'cause if it's an unfamiliar accent, it takes me an age to figure out what the character's saying.
|Date:||December 20th, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)|| |
The big trap with writing dialog is that it's almost always applied in a classist manner. Nobody speaks every sound of every word the way Websters says we should; but rarely will someone with a college degree be written as saying, for instance, "nuthin'" for "nothing" or "cowny" for "county" (like I do, for instance).
OTOH, sometimes people do say "wanna" and "gonna" instead of "want to" or "going to," and in those cases I write wanna or gonna.
|Date:||December 20th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)|| |
I'd prefer not to turn this post into a debate of that sort. Just because that's an issue in some people's writing doesn't mean it is in mine. (I do have class issues, but they're more about Poverty-Stricken lil' old me struggling not to judge all rich people as stuffed, wimpy, uppity bastards. *g*)
What I'm asking about is getting voices correct (cops in 1970's Manchester, England, speak very differently from myself--not in terms of "lower," but just in terms of alternate sound and slang and syntax).
|Date:||December 20th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)|| |
Just because that's an issue in some people's writing doesn't mean it is in mine.
Didn't mean to imply it did!
|Date:||December 20th, 2009 09:10 pm (UTC)|| |
Okay, good. :) I'm very used to being jumped all over without regard for what I'm actually saying when stuff like this comes up in fandom, so I'm terribly oversensitive.
|Date:||December 20th, 2009 09:23 pm (UTC)|| |
It was just something that was pointed out to me when I took a writing class years ago; I recognized this tendency in myself, so was very glad of the advice.
|Date:||December 20th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)|| |
Oh this is a fun one, yes - especially with something like Mag7 where they all speak Old West :)
I usually try for a balancing act between 1 and 2 - you do need some of it, especially with the more overt speech-patterns like Vin and Ezra, but because they are obvious - and heavy - you need to do it with a light hand. I've yet to get them quite right (I was scared to death of Ezra's Southern drawl at first)
|Date:||December 20th, 2009 08:44 pm (UTC)|| |
Yes, I've noticed that you give Ezra quite a drawl (I haven't actually watched M7, myself, yet). It does seem to be more important to distinguish the dialogue if one character has a markedly different way of speaking that is important to that character. (I found myself slurring some words for one of the younger characters in a story I recently wrote--not because his accent is any different from those around him, but because when I watch the show I "hear" the older person's words more clearly, and the younger guy often talks with food in his mouth and stuff like that.)
It depends on the source material. If you hear one person as very different from the rest, then phonetic adaptations to the spelling might be appropriate. I didn't have any trouble with Huck Finn, or any of the other 19th century books which used dialect but that's because I was taught to read phonetically from the beginning.
But a few dashes of flavor can work just as well. Words which the characters might use, especially jargon and slang, can convey a lot.
I was torn between "somewhat phonetically" and "obvious syntactical differences". But I've been jumped on for being phonetic, so I obviously don't know anything.
But surely there's a difference between: "I don't know anything" and "I dunno anythin'"?
|Date:||December 21st, 2009 03:18 am (UTC)|| |
I think I would do a bit of both, were I creating voices for original characters. It's a bit weirder with fic, where I could use the straight words and people might hear the character's accent anyway. I've been thinking about this far too much lately because I'm writing my first fic in a fandom that is quite non-American in its sound; they're forever dropping initial or last sounds, and the vowels are different too. (I hear 'oop' when I read 'up' in their dialogue, now.)
Huck Finn would probably have said, ‘I don’t know nothing.’ That, I find, actually works better on the ear without grating on the eye. I mean that one’s subvocalization automatically supplies the dropped g and the slurred don’t know, without the scanning hiccups that can slow one down when reading a string of misspelt words.
Huck’s récit, as opposed to his dialogue (which is rather too phonetic for modern taste, though not for mine), does a brilliant job of striking a balance. It’s a great thing to reread just to absorb the flavour and the cadences of the dialect.
I've skimmed some of the answers, and I'm not sure my two cents will add anything, but here goes.
I think a balance between the two is necessary, and the occasional spelling helps, but for me, just as important as the phonetics of a dialect is the way words are put together--sentence structure. Sentence structure is as important to the flavor of a character's speech as the actual phonetics. You know what I mean?
Also, I think it's important to figure out what the predominant dialect is, and that be your starting point. The characters who have a dialect that is something other than the standard for the story are going to need more literary clues for the reader to "hear" them.
We also already write a lot in . . . maybe not dialect, but more spoken speech patterns than proper. Wanna, gonna, shoulda, kinda, c'mere. Things like that.
And speaking of Mag7, which I have seen at least once, I remember reading a Mag7 story and I was so tickled that the author got the dialect right. It wasn't distracting as I was reading it, other than to cause me extra glee in that it helped me hear the characters in my head, in the voices of the actors.
And probably none of that made sense. Do with it as you will.
I'm actually somewhere between 1 and 3 but I said 3 because overdoing 1 could get really annoying.
|Date:||December 21st, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)|| |
I've gone for the first option as closest to my view, though I would want to qualify it by saying that it can be difficult to do well and can become tiresome if overdone.