Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Div or Div'nt, tha's nee try, man!

Do not worry; I have not suffered an involuntary spasm whilst typing. Nor have I accidently dropped anything onto my keyboard. The title of this post is in fact a popular quote from The Empire Strikes Back, told how it would have been if Yoda was a Geordie (native of Newcastle in the north of England). The point I want to make is that using accents, dialect and colloquialisms can create confusion, which is not what any writer wants their readers to experience.

The obvious question to ask oneself is whether or not using dialect is absolutely necessary to the story. It is the same principle with subtitles in movies. It can be tiring for the viewer to have to continually read from the bottom of the screen and unless I am watching a foreign film, it is something that I have no desire to see. Of course, taking the Star Wars example once more (sorry - I'm a geek!), sometimes it can look ridiculous for the alien species to be speaking a language that their physiognomy would not allow - Jabba the Hutt springs to mind. In this case, subtitles are entirely necessary and can be forgiven.

And so it is in writing. If a character is disadvantaged or placed outside of a group due to a language barrier then by all means use dialect. If speaking in a certain way is able to define a character, then again - use it. If it is just a case of authenticity then I think it is best to consider the audience and what your expectations are for the book. If I wrote a book entirely in my native dialect, nobody outside of a very narrow geographical area would be interested or indeed capable of deciphering it! If the plot implies that all of the characters can fully understand one another and share a native tongue, then you want the reader to share in that too. A small amount of easily understandable dialect will be sufficient to convey where a character comes from.

The Outback is the only of my novels to employ dialect/accent and that is purely to highlight the fact that certain characters are not fluent in English. The story is about a disparate group of backpackers and the inability of one of them being able to speak English has particular bearing on the plot. For the most part though, I use it for comic effect and to lighten the tone. I must confess that I did also become partial to the odd piece of Aussie slang that I picked up during my time there. But like I said; it is okay in moderation. If not, then I really am a flaming gallah aren't I?

*For the record. The quote from the title should have read "Do or do not, there is no try".


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