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  1. Von_Mitchell

    Von_Mitchell New Member

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    Speech impediments in dialogue

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Von_Mitchell, Jun 22, 2017.

    Let's say I'm writing a character who had his lips cut off so he can't really pronounce words with B, M, W, V, and to a lesser extent F, and V. How would one represent this is dialogue without it becoming too strenuous to read?
     
  2. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

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    I've read books where the author wrote the dialogue (accents) exactly as the person said it (in your case it would be writing his speech without those letters), and it was annoying as heck. I actually wished the character would die or have their tongue cut out just so I wouldn't have to read their dialogue anymore.

    On the other hand, I've read books where the author offhandedly (through a character) mentioned the accent, then wrote the dialogue in perfect English--with a few phrases from their culture and a few words spelled differently to represent the accent (not all of the books used the second one. If you can sneak in the phrases, you really don't need the misspelled words). I actually really enjoyed reading this version, as it made the characters quite charming and added to their personality. I actually quote a phrase from one character frequently because I liked her accent and personality so much.

    Hope this helps!

    ETA: I actually remember reading a thread about this type of question. I think it was about accents. Try doing a search on how to write characters with accents; you might find it quite helpful.
     
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  3. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    In Thomas Harris's Hannibal, Mason Verger has the same problem. I don't have the book front of me at this moment, but I believe the reader is informed that Mason is unable to pronounce certain sounds.

    An example, 'Unable to pronounce Hs or Ss, Mason said, "Hello, Agent Sterling." (It was something along those lines.)
     
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  4. JPClyde

    JPClyde Senior Member

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    I uses ellipses and hyphens as ways to express pauses and breaks in dialogue, and add words like stutter or mumble.

    For example

    "I-" his bottom lipped quivered as he tried to nervously construct his thoughts into audible language, "I-ju-ju-st don't, don't thi-think that should b-be the case. Her sa-fety is more important." he manages to stutter out.
     
  5. Arktaurous34

    Arktaurous34 Active Member

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    I have often wondered about such things as well. The temptation is to write it out like it sounds but as @Elven Candy conveyed this can be a grueling read. My opinion would be to write it, explain it, and let the reader imagine it rather than make the reader sift through word fragments.
     
  6. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

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    The problem with doing it that way is it can get annoying to read really quickly. I read a book where the MC paused a lot in her speech and thinking, and the author put ellipses where she paused. I got really annoyed really fast. It was my favorite book that I've read from that author and I constantly want to reread it, but when I remember the constant ellipses, I decide not to bother.

    Your example, put in every once in a while, is much more acceptable. Ellipses are also okay, if they're only put in every now and then.

    A few tips for your example:
    The dash after the first "I" needs to be replaced with an m-dash to show a break in his speech. The short dash is put between letters and words to connect them; the m-dash shows a pause. Even if the character didn't do a real pause, the reader reads it as if they did because of the sentence between the "I" and the rest of the dialogue.

    His bottom lip quivered . . . audible language isn't a dialogue tag; it's more like a character beat, so you want to capitalize "his" and put a period after "language."

    You don't need to put stutter in the speech tag if you use the dashes; that just makes it redundant. Since everyone knows what a stutter sounds like, they can imagine it very well with just a speech tag, so you can technically leave out the dashes if you so desire. I tend to use the dashes to show stuttering when someone's stuttering because of something else, like their teeth are chattering. Saying "he chattered" wouldn't make sense to some readers, so showing a little stuttering and saying "he said through chattering teeth" makes much more sense. Don't make these scenes last too long, though, or the stuttering will grate on the reader's nerves. You might even be able to leave out further dashes. If you make sure the reader knows the character is still very cold, the reader can automatically imagine the stuttering.
     
  7. JPClyde

    JPClyde Senior Member

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    I only ever do it once in a while. Quick note. I hate the word teeth chatter. Because when I stutter, General Anxiety Hey, when I am anxious my teeth don't chatter. I like capturing nervousness, either with vocal fidgeting or physical fidgeting
     
  8. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

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    If you feel the reader needs a reminder of the impediment, you can always add another character that can't understand them very well, such as a cashier trying to understand a question or a customer service representative over the phone mishearing everything (I totally haven't been these people). Obviously it'd have to add to the story, so you'd put this where the character needs a little more frustration for the story.
     
  9. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

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    Yeah, if you're nervous your teeth don't chatter. I was referring to when someone's really cold, so their teeth chatter. I guess I didn't make that very clear, sorry!
     
  10. JPClyde

    JPClyde Senior Member

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    Oh okay. No I am sorry. Its 7 am. I think I went to bed at 3 am. So what four hours of sleep, plus an ADD addled mind trying to read "chattering teeth" in context in delirium induced half asleep wake state. lol
     
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  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    You wascally wabbits. :p
     
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  12. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

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    Fiend! You should say:
    "You rascally rabbits," he said with a speech impediment of replacing R with W.

    (now that's terrible writing, right there ^)
     
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