Saturday, March 10, 2012
"Yawsuhh, I'ze gwine gogitzome skrimps teat." I would never write this.
If you wrote the line in the heading, you would catch a lot of crap, even if it were accurate to a certain region. I heard that line and wrote it in a notebook, but there it has rested for a decade. Writing in dialect is probably one of the hardest calls in the dialog department. Not that you can't do it, because you can, but it won't work over a distance. I give the reader a taste of what it sounds like, but switch to readable non-phonic after. Sometimes I just tell the reader what the words sounded like so they get it without them having to struggle with misspelled words or those that are unfamiliar to the readers' eye. So, I say that, it sounds like, Baawstin for Bosten, or Mizippi for Mississippi to another character. I do it once for a character. Or I may have a character purposefully mispronounce the word. i.e. "Baawstin," Carl said, mockingly. But long runs of dialect are a no-no for me. If you write thoughts, do characters who speak in dialect, think in dialect?) I suppose they would have to.
Dialect is hard. Accents are hard, unless they are your own. Deep Southern drawl is mine because that is who I am, when I relax. I grew up in it. I know it. I have an ear for it. I also do a passable Cajun because I've spent a lot of time in the Louisiana lowlands, the waterways and swamps. I like writing accents I know and enjoy. Cadence. Pacing of spoken words. You can not fool people who know an accent, so you have to do it right. Immerse yourself in a region and soak up the nuances of the spoken word in that place. You have to have an ear.
Nothing about writing is easy if you do a good job at it.
How do you deal with dialects and regional accents? What's your favorite to write, to listen to?
Posted by John Ramsey Miller at 12:01 AM