My characters talk, I hope, like real people. I listen to people’s conversations (yeah, eavesdrop) when I am out and sometimes I pick up a quirky saying or a person’s unusual habit, like lower jaw movement, biting on the tip of a protruding tongue, pinching an earlobe, all while talking or listening. Things people often don’t realize they are doing.

Included in these are speech patterns: Gonna, wanna, ‘em, ain’t, nah, and so forth. Maybe even dropping the “g” of a word ending in ing.

My question for discussion is, when is it too much? When does it get in the way of the reader? Any suggestions? How do you handle it? I am open to suggestions.

Views: 37

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Although I'm not as yet published, I am in the midst of writing the first of a series of hardboiled crime novels. But I know how to write stage dialogue so I think I can contribute. I think you don't want to get too mannered. That is, not to give the reader too much description of the way people speak. I think there's nothing more powerful than what a person says (and naturally, to some extent how they say it. Also how they speak (impediments if any and so on.) any way, you're the published crime writer, so your gut feeling is probably the right one!
Carol, thank you and good luck with your series.
thank you! and best of luck to you!
Speech patterns differ from person to person and reveal a lot about age and background. I would assume that not all of your characters talk the same way. As long as there is variety and individualism, you probably gain immediacy and realism by using such expressions.
I.J., thank you for taking the time to respond.
Joe, a good point and what I tried to do. Usually, in rewriting, I cut back and leave just enough to you can ID the speaker, if it's a string of back-and-forth dialogue. Thanks for taking the time to reply.
I think that's a really good point, Joe. I'm with you--I hate to get slowed down by too much of an attempt to recreate the sound of language. I think you can give an impression of the speech patterns by sprinkling in a few strategic "slangified" words. But most of all, it's the rhythm of the speech that conveys the speaker's sound to me.
Michael, I find Joe Moore's idea of 'eye disturbance' a very good one. It's something I should remember.

Your question is akin to matters of cooking - how much salt, how much spice - or personal grooming - how much perfume, how much ornament. Tastes differ. What audience do you want? Linguists? Dialecticians? Speech pathologists?

I've been accused of targeting all three, to the exclusion of a more general readership. Because I have an over-active ear for dialect and accent, my first drafts are often something only Henry Higgins could love - or read comfortably.

My conclusion is that a whiff and a scent are enough - unless there's a plot point to be made.
Tom, like I said to Joe, yeah! Like you in the rewrite I usually cut back and hope it's not too much or too little. thanks for taking the time to relpy.
Jon, thank you. One of my concerns is trying to capture something of the character in their talk and physical actions, but not to over do it. Sounds like you feel comfortable with your way. Yeah, you can put a lot of jokes and hints is good dialogue.
I gotta go with 4 of Dutch's 10 Rules on this one: Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly, Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue, Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said", and If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.

And I've always felt that if it sticks out when you re-read aloud, then it's too much.
And from someone who grew up deaf and relied on body language and visual cues most of my life, you gotta remember the emotion. Nothing sounds real without feeling the emotions of the character. It's like a pasteboard if you're not really living with and through these folks.


CrimeSpace Google Search

© 2024   Created by Daniel Hatadi.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service