Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How Much Dialect is Too Much?

A character's dialect encompasses pronunciation, inflection, even word choices. If a story is set in a region with a strong dialect, the author's choice becomes how the characters should portray it.

When readers think of dialect, they tend to think accents.

An author might say that a visiting grandfather has a strong southern accent and then throw in an occasional y'all. Or the choice could be to emphasize every southern inflection. "I'm not sure what you people are talking about" becomes "Ahm not sure what y'all are talkin' about."

I tend to work first with word choices. For example, in the Midwest, a house could be referred to as of frame construction (wood as opposed to brick), while in New England that's a clapboard house. And how is it pronounced? It's clabberd. That's not a word I would spell phonetically, though when working with a narrator for an audiobook, it's a word I'm sure to check.

One of my earliest books (Secrets of the Gap) was set in England with a mix of American and British speakers. I decided to inject occasional British terminology (shed-ule instead of schedule) rather than have different English language pronunciations for Americans and Brits. (Plus, I would have flubbed it.)

When deciding how much local dialect to include, I think of authenticity and distraction level. I want to recognize there may be a distinct way of talking, but I don't want readers to get tired of constant spelling variations. I also don't want readers to spend time critiquing how I chose to portray a speech pattern. I want them to focus on the story.

Critique groups and beta readers are great resources for assessing speech patterns and word choices. I wish I had a dollar for every time a critique group member said, "They wouldn't say it that way." I could buy a new car. Or go to six writers' conferences a year.
                                                                           *     *     *     *     *     *
 Check out Elaine's web page, sign up for her classes, or receive her newsletter.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Picking Blogs to Read

I used to follow a number of blogs and tried to read each post. After all, I selected them because the topics or their authors appealed to me. Eventually, I would skip one or two (when notified via email) with the intention of catching up.

You can guess what happened. I created a backlog and reading the blog posts felt like homework.

As a former analyst, I decided to create criteria. Though most people reading this blog will have a range of interests, I'll start with the assumption that we are readers and writers, and the writers would like to see their books in print someday.

Considerations for blogs to read are:
  • Those to learn about new books. For me, these are cozy mystery blogs such as A Cup of Tea and Cozy Mysteries or Lisa K's blogs. I also found a list of top ten cozy blogs and several look quite good. If you prefer another genre, just google "thriller blogs" or "literary fiction blogs" -- your choice.
  • Topics to make you laugh. I look at The Onion (which has a political tinge) a lot. Check out this list of 100 humor blogs.
  • Those to learn about publishing trends. Two favorites are Terry Odell's blog and that of Jane Friedman. Jane's is more for those who really want to study a topic. Terry is especially good at sharing marketing tips.
  • Blogs that relate to your books' subject matter (if an author) or topics about which you like to read.
  • Friends' blogs. Most people who blog don't expect fans to read every post -- unless you follow the blog. Be selective about who you follow. I unfollowed an acquaintance and she asked why. It was simply because I didn't read it a lot, but, gulp.
More so than in the past, people who might have blogged have started Facebook groups. If you are looking for a more interactive way to read about a subject, those are an option.

Whatever your interest, you'll find people blogging about it. Have fun!

                                                                           *     *     *     *     *     *
 Check out Elaine's web page, sign up for her classes, or receive her newsletter.