1. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    How do you feel about including colloquialisms into dialogue?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Inspired writer, Jan 26, 2012.

    Personally, I feel it cheapens the essence of the story but that's just my opinion. But I suppose it could be something of an asset in 'character development' in some obvious cases.
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see no problem using them in dialogue, with the caveat that there's some context so readers not from the area understand (approximately) what is meant. I don't think they should be used in the narrative, unless it's first person - but sparingly even so.
     
  3. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    I did read a book recently where dialect was strong throughout. It did tie in with the theme of the book and it's comical value but have also just read 'War horse' and the colloquialisms were a little hard to follow to be perfectly honest.
    I guess the genre is important where 'slang' is concerned.
    But personally, with my style, I feel it cheapens it somehow. I guess that's just my opinion.
     
  4. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    What's important is that we understand what the characters are saying and how they're saying it. Dialogue should be written as naturally and closely to real conversation as possible.

    Colloquialisms can serve this purpose, as can street speak, etc.
     
  5. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I both use and encourage the use of it in dialogue. It feels much more realistic and natural.

    NB: I don't read fantasy or sci-fi or any novels set in a fictional land. Most of the time the novels I read, when a year is specified, are set in real countries on Earth between the late 1960s and the current year.
     
  6. Deleth
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    Deleth Member

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    Honest here I had to Google what colloquialisms meant but yes, absolutely include them in your dialoged. As mentioned above dialogue is what "real speech" is in life. My story includes teenagers so there are colloquialisms everywhere but restrained so that it comes across as natural -- which is the key to good dialogue. It has to read like natural speech sounds.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The use of colloquialism in dialogue helps define and reveal your characters. However, to succeed, you have to be observant about real people differ in their use of colloquialisms and other dialogue characteristics. For example, I watched a girl with a cell phone pressed her face in the laundromat, laughing and chatting with a friend. Most of her side of the conversation consisted of bits of gossip, pausing to listen, and exclaiming, "No! Get out!" followed by the next juicy piece of gossip. That phrase was characteristic for her. Still, in dialogue it could be easily overused and become cartoonish.

    If I wrote her as a character, I would use that phrase probably no more than twice, possibly thrice, in a single conversation. Enough to establish it as part of her speech pattern, but not so much it becomes tedious.
     
  8. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's essential for every noticeable character to have their own, unique voice. Having said that, I have never spoken to anyone for more than 5 minutes without noticing that we both use at least some colloquialisms. It doesn't have to be overt, but I always felt that dialogue in a book needs to be realistic, and if I try to write somebody's voce without any colloquialisms whatsoever, that voice stands out very much, because it is unusual unnatural, formal. Don't take me wrong, even voices like that are useful at times, but I think if everyone in a book spoke "perfectly" all the time, it would make for a boring and heavy book.
    I think, as long as the language is easy to follow and will stand the test of time (some slang words can age the text in a bad way, so I steer clear of those) it's ok to use them.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    to reiterate most of what's been said above, of course colloquialisms can and should be used in dialogue, if that's how the character would speak... just be careful not to overdo it and make sure you use expressions/idioms that most readers will be familiar enough with, or be able to figure out without googling...
     
  10. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I would not use colloqualism because it will restrict the reader in terms of what he or she can read.
    colloqualism is specific to a type of reader.
    I write to a wider audience, native speakers and non,and so will endeavour to write in a standard language in order in order to access it to everyone.
     
  11. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is just your opinion, right? Because there is a big, huge difference between fact and opinion.
     
  12. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't understand how this would be restricting. It is safe to assume that the average reader is intelligent enough to figure out the meaning of a word they may have not come across before simply by looking at the context it has been used in.
     
  13. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    not always not.
    I mean language change from one place to another and so deos colloqualism.
    I am also thinking about non English readers. Lots of them want to learn English and so they would want to read books too.
    Colloqualism is hindering to those who do not share the same dialect.
    Standard language is what will guarantee me a bigger audience .
    That is what I am after .
     
  14. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    well I am talking for mysefl and what I chose to do.
    It is not a fact it is an opinion.
    I have lived in England as far as I can remember and I know that lots of people who are English who come across words they do not understand because it has been written in a dialect or in a colloqual manner.
    One cannot assume that everyone will understand.
    That is my opinion.
    Of course I am not suggesting that you do not write in any way you wish.
    I amtelling you what I will do.
     
  15. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    The problem with writing so "everyone" will understand is that you can end up with very stilted, boring, or unrealistic dialogue. I read books with an occasional foreign phrase (Agatha Christie's, for example) - does the fact I have no idea what it literally means make me toss the book? No, because I can understand the gist of it from the context.
     
  16. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    Some people have a tendency to give their opinions in a way that sounds like fact or advice, but it's just their own subjective manner of entering a conversation. As such, it can also be used as a character. The sort of character everyone talks about behind her back how she always comes with ludicrous advice that runs counter to the whole conversation. Which can be funny, if you catch my drift [<colloquialism].

    What's important with colloquialisms and slang is to use enough improve the dialogue's verisimilitude, but not to actually fill all dialogue with colloquialisms and slang lest you render the dialogue comical or dated.

    This is pretty good use, for instance:
     
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  17. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    what makes you think it is ludicrous?
     
  18. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dialogue is supposed to be individual to the character, and natural. Of course colloquialisms can/must be used. It only causes problems when the entire book is overloaded with dialogue written out phonetically, or there is no context to make the meaning obvious. Novels are not written to please some kind of universal 'everyman'. People have different tastes and educational backgrounds, and choose their reading accordingly...or they sometimes want light reading, sometimes they go for a more demanding read.
     
  19. Inspired writer
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    But what if the character was foreign? Surely a great deal of research into that native's dialect etc would be necessary? Unless you try to imitate, then there's the possibility you could offend.
     
  20. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Ah.
    Now that is different.
    If it is to reinforce the character's personality then yes I would go ahead with colloqualism and of course add 'footnotes'to explain what the character meant.
    That would be interesting.
     
  21. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think trying to get into foreign language colloquialisms would be a minefield one should stay clear of. Throw in some well-recognized phrases when appropriate, or perhaps have someone who doesn't speak the language look quizzical or need a translation, and leave it at that. To me, it's like any dialect or accent - or even descriptions - you use what's necessary to set the flavor and don't act like the reader needs to be led around by the nose. ;)
     
  22. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hate footnotes in fiction. JMO
     
  23. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    I am learning German at the moment, and hope to become fluent one day. I would actually want a German novel to include colloquialisms, because it would help me get a flavour of the language, and expand my knowledge. If I didn't understand it, I'd look it up, and hopefully learn something.
     
  24. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    I totally agree.

    If you need to add footnotes to explain your fiction, most editors assume you either cannot write or you think your readers are morons.
     
  25. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm the same. Dialogue should speak for itself. Whilst use of local dialects may add character and show where your character is from, it does still need to be understandable on its own. If you feel the need to use footnotes to explain what your character is saying then you need to modify what you're saying.

    Dialogue should also be representative of speech. Good dialogue emulates speech. No one in real life uses perfect English, everyone speaks with an accent, and 90% use local dialect and colloquialisms of some sort. We all have our own favourite words and phrases, and it's a chance to build a character's background and attitude without having to resort to telling. Good dialogue is difficult because we have to make it individual to the character and keep it realistic, but it's a challenge that should be relished.
     

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