Showing posts with label languages in dialogue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label languages in dialogue. Show all posts

Monday, June 2, 2014

Dialect in Dialog


QUESTION: I want one of my characters to be a boy from England. How do I get the language and vocabulary right?

Like the US, Great Britain has regional accents and expressions, and their language and accent is also affected by class and education so you need to figure out where that British kid comes from and what his social class is before you start your research.

Most writers seem to forget about class and region when they write, and I always snicker when the housemaid is mistaken for a lady, or the Southern character doesn't sound or act remotely Southern or is from the wrong part of the South.

Take care, though, not to be so accurate that your character is unintelligible to most readers.

The trick is to give the feel and rhythm of the language without making the reader scratch her head over the slang and expressions.

The Internet is a glorious place full of resources and the ability to contact people from all over the world so you should be able to find someone to help you with the specific language and sound of your character. Ask around on reader and writer lists or among your Facebook friends for someone from that area. If that doesn't work, do some search engine hunting.

You should also ask around about movies or TV shows that have characters who sound right for the character you want to write.  If you can “hear” that character’s voice when you write, you usually won’t go wrong.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Using Texting in Fiction


QUESTION: I need to include multiple lines of text dialogue in my story. My question is about rendering the punctuation of it.

For example, in a rapid fire text exchange with short snappy one word answers, in real life, the writers would be unlikely to use much punctuation including periods. Can I eliminate them in my rendition of it to the page?

ANSWER: As long as what you write is clear to the reader, I see no problem with doing the punctuation or lack of it as you wish. Just be consistent.

One thing to consider is who your reader is. If your book is aimed at younger readers, they will be much more comfortable with nonstandard punctuation than the older reader.

To differentiate the text dialogue from the regular text, I suggest you narrow the margin on both sides of the page by another inch and use names in the same way as in movie and play scripts.


JANET: OMG OMG Dirk asked me to the prom.

MARY: WTF He asked me, too!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Can You Say That in Elf?


QUESTION: I have several scenes where a man is around elves. I don't want to invent my own language, and I'm afraid to use Tolkien's elf language. What can I do?

You're right to avoid using Tolkien's language. I doubt Tolkien's estate would be too pleased about that.

The simplest way to write the scene without inserting the language is to use the viewpoint of someone who doesn't know the language. You can then write something like--

Adam listened to the two elves talking to each other. Their language sounded like the wind in dry oak leaves mixed with babbling creek water. 

Finally the elf who could speak English said, "Our king says we will not help you."

Or you can have the scene from the viewpoint of the elf who speaks English.

The king said in their own language, "I do not trust these humans. Tell them that I will not help them find passage through our mountains."

Mossbark nodded and said in English to the humans, "Our king will not help you."

These tips works with any language.