1. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    Am i qualified to write this dialect?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by C. W. Evon, Jul 25, 2015.

    Hello everyone. I'm brand new here, not new to writing. I am, however, new to using dialect. Up till now, I've been very conservative in my choice of characters, and all of them have had either British or American accents.

    My novel is historical, and is set in 19th century America. One of my two POV characters is Irish. Her family immigrated to America when she was about five years old. I taken great pains to be tasteful in how I represent her dialogue. I do not use phonetic spellings, because personally, I dislike them, and feel that they probably provide the most fertile ground for inaccuracies. Rather, I have used grammatical subtleties such as word order, diction, and a few Irish expressions sprinkled here and there for flavour. (For example, after coming across the injured protagonist and at first thinking that he is dead, she scolds him for startling her by saying: "You put the heart crossways in me!")

    Even still, I'm worried because I'm not Irish (You would have to go back to the 17th century to find the Irish in me). I haven't even been to Ireland (though I'd love to!). I've taken great pains to familiarise myself with details to make her authentic (for example, a tendency--now mostly outdated with globalisation, but applicable then--to repeat the verb in question rather than say "yes" or "no," since equivalents of these words were not found in the original Irish language). But whatever steps I take to be tasteful and subtle, the doubt still lingers in the back of my mind: would Irish readers be insulted that I even attempted to convey they're way of speaking? In other words, am I qualified? Is it allowed? As a writer of historical fiction, I obviously must deviate greatly from "what I know," but is this going too far? (I'm a bit paranoid, if you've not noticed!)

    I have a one or two other questions, but I'll put them in their own threads to simplify things.
     
  2. Valery Faye
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    Valery Faye Member

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    Hmm, this does sound tricky. The only thing I'd say is reeeeallly do your research - which you obviously have. Are there other examples of the dialect in print that you could peruse? I guess they would be difficult to come across.

    Either way, I think what you're doing sounds fine.
     
  3. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    I just want to say that I am aware of my incorrect usage of "they're" when it should be "their," and am properly and thoroughly ashamed of myself. Oops! Worried, paranoid tying isn't advised.
     
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  4. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    Thanks so much for replying. I've tried to find a few examples for you.

    Examples of how she talks under normal circumstances:

    "He couldn’t be raising the children by himself anymore. I couldn’t be raising them anymore. I was workin’ too, and poor Margaret—that’s one of my sisters—she’s only fourteen. Well, that’s how old I was when I started being mother to all five of them. I couldn’t let that happen to Meg, too."

    He stumbled often, and Bridie stopped suddenly, shaking her head. “No. We’d not be making it to town—you’re not able.”


    Examples of how she talks when she's angry/startled/excited (more recognisably different from how, say, Miles sounds):

    "Am I Irish? I am. Was I born there? I was. Am I wanting to go back? I amn’t.” Her voice changed a little as she talked, until she sounded quite Irish, whereas he hadn't noticed any accent before.

    (Full quote from which example in original post was pulled) “Well, you put the heart crossways in me, sure. Wasn’t I out for a little walk and not a bother on me, and didn’t I suddenly see you just lying there, your hair all tangled with blood?”

    Here's an example of her and Miles (the protag) in conversation:

    Miles shook his head slowly. “My mother wasn’t happy at all about me coming out here. She said—she said I’d kill her if I left.”

    Bridie let out a low whistle.

    “But—she didn’t mean it, really. It’s just—she’s not good at saying goodbye.” Miles said it more to convince himself than Bridie.

    “She must love you very much. My pa loves me, sure. But he doesn’t have the time to care much about anything anymore. Nor the will, since my mam died.”

    “My father died when I was two years old.” He gave her this information like a carefully wrapped gift that he felt he should share.

    “I’m sorry.” This time there was not a trace of amusement on her face. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

    “No.” Not anymore, he added in his head. But it didn’t make any difference and he’d rather give the simplest answer.

    “Well there you have it then. She wasn’t wanting to let you go because you’re all she has. That’s understandable.”


    I did my best to find good examples. It's difficult because I'm still near the beginning of my novel, so Miles has only had two real conversations with Bridie. And I'm not writing the chapters in Bridie's point of view until later, because I don't want to be switching back and forth and getting their characters wrong. Hope this is what you were looking for!
     
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  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's a British author, possibly Agatha Christie, whose American characters used "I guess" incorrectly. I'm not offended by this, just amused, but it does tend to break the illusion.

    All I can suggest is that you try not to take an expression and sprinkle it liberally, but instead use it with a context and emotion very similar to the way that you encountered it.
     
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  6. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    Thank you, this is sound advice. Also, that's amusing about Agatha Christie, I never heard that before.
     
  7. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    *bangs head on keyboard in frustration because I went and spelled "typing" correctly. There is irony in here somewhere, I can feel it.
     
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  8. Valery Faye
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    Valery Faye Member

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    I don't think any of that is jarring at all. Her speech wouldn't put me off as a reader.

    In my humble opinion, it's pretty sound and reads naturally~
     
  9. Ketlan
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    Ketlan New Member

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    'In my humble opinion, it's pretty sound and reads naturally'

    Have to say I agree with that. It's too easy to go over the top with dialect which annoys the reader and turns a story to sludge. Keep it as light as you have in your examples and your readers will be happy.

    I'm a great fan of Anthony Burgess (Earthly Powers/Dead Man in Deptford/A Clockwork Orange) but I always had to avoid his Cockney dialect when it appeared in any of his books because it was utterly awful, nothing like any Cockney I ever heard and made me cringe with embarrassment.
     
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  10. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    You have no idea how happy that makes me. Thank you so much for your feedback.
     
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  11. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    Thank you very much. I've read books that I couldn't get through because the dialogue was too hard to read. I remember one that was set in Scotland and everything was written out phonetically. I didn't make it very far. So I really wanted to avoid that with my own writing!
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is my only issue. (Though I should make it clear that I have no knowledge of of the dialect.) If you're not using phonetics, I would also recommend avoiding the -in' endings.

    Edited to clarify: And it's good, IMO, that you're not using the phonetics.)
     
  13. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    Thank you for that feedback. I read something about writing dialect that said it's good to throw one of those in every now and again to remind the reader how the character sounds. So I dutifully added a couple. But obviously it isn't the advice I should be following if it doesn't feel right to the reader, which is the most important thing. So thank you for that very helpful comment.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My view is that with your concern for being respectful of the characters, it makes sense to write what the character thinks they're saying, rather than what a character who speaks the dominant accent might hear them saying. If the dominant accent dropped the 'ng', then characters who use it might be written with that sound overemphasized, "workinnnng." And we, who don't drop it, might say, "That's just silly, and you're making fun of us."

    Now, this policy is apparently not at all clearcut with Scottish accents, where (I say with my extremely limited understanding and may be saying it wrong) the speakers themselves write with differently spelled words to reflect the pronunciation. Or maybe they think of them as different words. I don't know.

    But unless you know something to the contrary about Irish speakers, I think that your character feels that she's saying "working", so I'd spell it "working".
     
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  15. Valery Faye
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    Valery Faye Member

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    :friend:
     
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  16. Ketlan
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    Ketlan New Member

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    That sounds like Trainspotting to me. I had the same problem. :)
     
  17. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    I've heard that writing in dialect is "no-no." I'd do it anyway. But I caution you to study the dialect you choose to write in. Without accuracy, you will become folly for those who will it their business to put heat underneath you. I'd begin by reading a book that is written by someone who speaks the language you wish to portray in your novel.
     

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