Friday, June 15, 2007

"Collar" and "caller" really DO sound the same. Honest.

Ever tried to write in dialect? It's tough, or, if you live in Boston, wicked hahd. You find yourself talking to, uh, yourself as you muddle through odd concoctions of consonants in an attempt to make a character sound "authentic."

The obvious pitfalls are, A) Turning your character into a caricature, or B) Turning your character into a mushmouthed moron. Note that Pitfall B has the collateral effect of impugning the writer's intelligence as well.

The easiest way to overcome this is to give a sympathetic, dialect-speaking reader some samples of what you're trying to do. From the Valley to the North Woods to the Deep South, expert advice from a native can save your words from disaster, don'tcha know. If you don't have a British Minnesotan handy, though, another tactic is to describe your character's speech patterns in the narrative--i.e. "His drawl stretched every word to its breaking point"--and then writing the actual dialogue in standard form. That leaves it to the reader's imagination, which often can summon up a more vivid picture than you can write. Yet they buy books anyway. Suckas.

And just in case anyone asks you what dialect you're an expert in, here's a little quiz. I apparently have mastered the accent-less Midlands dialect. If you want any pointers on how to say things the way they're spelled, let me know.


Chris Cook said...

I was pinned with the "Northern" accent. According to the survey, "That could either be the Chicago/Detroit/Cleveland/Buffalo accent (easily recognizable) or the Western New England accent that news networks go for."

Alright then.

M. Gants v4.0 said...

Ah, you ever read "Train Spotting"? It´s very heavy on the dialect - took me a couple of tries on the first few pages before it clicked...a lexicon would have helped though :)

Wicked. They say this in England too.