Dialect in Writing

 

Dialect 

If one or more of your characters have a dialect or accent that you feel is important to note in your novel, I would suggest that unless you are very familiar with those regional speech patterns or accents, use them sparsely so they  don’t distract from the story. The safer way to do it would be to choose a few instances of the dialect and use them in dialogue. Try as much as possible to have the rest of the writing in plain English.

Falling out of character by messing up the dialect is going to do damage to your credibility as a writer and to the credibility of the character.

I’d like to give you some examples of how I have used dialect of a character in my novels.

One of my secondary characters in The Wind Weeps is Monique, a French-Canadian girl. I wanted to show that she spoke with a French-Canadian accent, but I didn’t want the phonetic spelling of every word of her speech become a chore for the reader. My solution was to limit Monique’s dialect and accent to a few of the most obvious speech habits that were typical of French speakers of English.

Saying the soft sound of “th” (as in “they”) is often difficult for speakers of French origin,  so, for example, instead of saying “there,” Monique would say “dere.”  For the hard sound of “th,” she might say “somet’ing” instead of “something.”

In French the sound of “h” is not used, so in English, Monique would have a habit of dropping the sound of the letter “h.” I showed this by placing an apostrophe in its place.  If she were saying, “It’s time to have something to eat,” she would say, “It is time to ’ave somet’ing to eat.”

That reminds me of the last clue to Monique’s speech being different; she would not use contractions. Instead of “can’t,” she would say “cannot,”  or she would say “it is” instead of “it’s, and “I ’ave” instead of “I’ve.”

By using these three changes in the dialogue, the reader could instantly identify that it was Monique who was speaking.  Just to be sure, I gave Monique two more habits of her own. I added the odd case of her swearing by having her say, “Tabernac,” once in a while. I also had her use an expression that was all her own by having her conflate two common phrases she had heard used in English. When she wanted to say “For sure” or “Sure thing,” as she had heard others say, she ended up saying, “For sure t’ing.”  Whenever this came up in the book, we would always know it was Monique speaking.

If you’d like to check it out yourself, you can find The Wind Weeps and its sequel, Reckoning Tide, at all amazon   (click on amazon) outlets and at smashwords.com (Click on smashwords.com).

My books are all marked down to 99 cents US so you can load your e-reader with bargain reading.

You can find a review of The Wind Weeps, by clicking on this blog post by Diana Wallace Peach,

P.S. For those who follow both my blogs, I have copied this post for both this one time. I don’t intend to make that a habit.

 

 

Point of View

When I first began to write seriously, I was surprised to find out that using the omniscient point of view, as our great authors of 200 years ago did, just wasn’t done anymore.

“What is point of view anyway?” I wondered. I thought all I had to do was pretend that as the author, I knew everything and I could see into every character’s head and tell what each one thought and felt.

That may have been all right in times of old, but apparently it is frowned upon in modern times, and aspiring authors certainly don’t want to be frowned upon before they even make their debut.

Point of view, usually called POV, is not, as some might at first think, someone’s opinion. It refers to the character through whom we are seeing the story unfold. As the writer, I can pretend that my main character has a camera mounted on his or her head, and whatever this magic camera can see, hear, touch, smell, feel, or know is allowed to be told. The “camera” cannot know what another character is thinking, unless the thoughts are spoken aloud in dialogue. So I am limited in what I can tell about another character’s emotions. I’ve had to become more skilled at letting the reader know what a secondary character might be feeling, through dialogue and by showing that character’s body language. Are his fists clenched? Is his jaw working? Are his eyes filling with tears? Are his eyes narrowing and his brow furrowing?

POV can be a problem if the POV character is not present in a scene that needs to be told. For that particular scene or even a chapter, the main character may be someone else, and the camera can be in that person’s head for the duration of that section. Just be sure the reader can immediately identify the POV character in the first sentence or two. The writer needs to stick to one person’s POV for each scene and not go “head hopping” throughout the scene.

Some of the most popular POVs used are first and third person (“I” and “he” or “she”), and can be in the past or present.

I would like to give you some short examples of some POV types.

First I want to show you something really, really horrible that I discovered in my novel, Marlie — a blatantly obvious (to everyone but me) POV error. In the section marked in red, I had slipped into first person when I should have been in third person POV. I have fixed that error and now I can sleep at night.

He took hold of both my upper arms and looked into my eyes. “Is it so hard to see that I really care about you?”

She swallowed hard. “I do too … care about you, I mean.” That was an understatement. She was totally lost, in love with this beautiful man.

Brent hugged her and muttered, “Clancy is going to pay.”

In spite of the warmth of Brent’s hug, she groaned and shivered in fear for him.

*****

 

In this excerpt from “Marlie” we have the POV in third person, past tense, and we are in Marlie’s head. This is how third person should be done, with no slips into first person.

“You were going to show me your carvings,” she said.

“Oh yeah.” Clancy took a swig and set the beer down on a wooden crate that served as coffee table. “But first, I need a little kiss.” He pulled her close and kissed her with that horrible beer breath.

She pushed him away, but he kept an iron grip on her upper arms.

“Clancy!” She hit at his shoulders and twisted away. “That’s not funny.”

He grabbed her wrist tightly. “No, not funny,” he said, “but it’s fun.” He laughed and yanked her closer and tried to kiss her again, groping at her breasts with one hand. “Told you we’d have fun.”

Now she was scared. She was all alone in the bush with a guy she hardly knew. What ever had possessed her to come here alone with him? She must have been crazy. She didn’t know Clancy. She’d only met him two weeks earlier and the comments from people who knew him had nothing good to say about him. Why hadn’t she listened? She was only trying to be polite, coming in to see his artwork. Suckered! She couldn’t believe she was so stupid.

Clancy grabbed the back of her hair. “I love your hair, Marlie. There’s so much of it.” He pulled it back so hard that her knees buckled and she fell backwards onto the couch, just as he must have planned it. She scratched his face to make him let go, but he threw his bloodied head back and laughed like an insane man, taunting her with a sound like a cat yowling. “Bit of a wildcat, eh?”

When she bit his arm he jumped back, shocked, and then slapped the side of her head with the back of his hand. Her head roared inside like blood rushing around in her skull, and her ears were ringing. Clancy reached up and grabbed a coil of rope that hung on a nail by the door.

 

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This section from Orion’s Gift is in first person, past tense. We are in Sylvia’s head.

I asked directions and learned that the Banamex was only a few blocks away in the business part of town. As I entered the bank, the security guard gave me a disapproving look. He stole frequent glances in my direction as I sat in the row of chairs in the waiting area with my queue number in my hand. A woman sitting at the far end of my row gave me the same disapproving look.

Do I have a smudge of dirt on me? For sure something was wrong. I felt very uncomfortable, as if I didn’t belong here. I settled back to wait my turn. The young Mexican woman sitting next to me leaned over and said, “Is your way of to dress.”

I looked down at my shorts and T-shirt and realized I had dressed like a camper, not a business person.

“Is not the custom to have the arms and the legs so … not covered,” she whispered. “Not in the bank. Maybe … en la playa … the beach.”

“Oh, dear.” I felt my face get hot. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”

“I know. Is why I tell you. For next time.” She patted my hand.

“Thank you so much. Muchas gracias.” I winced and gave her a little smile as I curled my shoulders, trying to shrink inside myself.

I couldn’t wait to escape. When my queue number came up on the digital display, I paid my tourist card fee and changed more dollars to pesos. The teller, a woman about my age, with her black hair pulled straight back and fastened in a chignon, was all business. She raised her nose slightly higher in disdain, brightly painted orange lips twitching disrespect. I scooped up the pesos she shoved through the wicket at me and rushed out of the bank. As I glanced hastily over my shoulder, I saw the security guard craning his neck for one last look at my legs.

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Some stories are better told in first person and some are better in third person. Some lend themselves to the present tense while others are better in the past tense. If you’re not sure which is best for your novel, why not try a few paragraphs in both and compare? Just don’t leave any loose threads like the ones I confessed to earlier in this post.

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If you go to amazon.com or amazon.ca you will see all my books on that page. They are also available on smashwords.com where you can download them in a format to suit your brand of e-reader.

Parentheses: When and How to Use Them

First of all, what is a parenthesis? It’s the singular form of parentheses.

Sometimes (often) they are mistakenly called brackets. See the difference here:

Parentheses (  )

Brackets [  ]

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When should you use them? They are meant to set off words that have no grammatical relationship to the rest of the sentence.

1. Often they enclose words that are meant to add information or explain a term or idea just mentioned, but without the sudden interruption of a dash.

Examples:

Three kinds of dogs (spaniels, shepherds, and chihuahas) went for a stroll in the park with their owners.

The First Amendment (guaranteeing freedom of speech) is under attack.

I cleaned the house (mainly dusted and vacuumed) and then I was ready to relax.

2. Parentheses can also be used to enclose terms given in another language.

Examples:

He had a laissez-faire  (let things happen as they may) attitude.

Or:

His attitude was to let things happen as they may (laissez-faire).

3. Parentheses are used to enclose numbers in lists that are included in text.

Example:

She decided that her new diet would include (1) sun-dried tomatoes, (2) feta cheese, and (3) lots of pasta.

4. What do you do when you need to explain something and use parentheses inside parentheses?

Example:

If you do it the British way, you would use parentheses inside the original set of parentheses, but the American way uses a less confusing approach (brackets [the square kind] inside the parentheses).

5. Does the period at the end of the sentence go inside or outside the closing parenthesis?

It depends on whether the part in parentheses is a phrase inside the sentence, or whether it would stand alone as a sentence. Look closely at the subtle differences in punctuation in the examples below:

On the bakery shelf were six kinds of cake (all of which Mary wanted to taste).

On the bakery shelf were six kinds of cake. ( Mary wanted to taste all of them.)

My feeling about the use of parentheses is that they can help to explain things in an expedient way, but they are best avoided unless there is good reason to use them. Possibly they are more convenient for use in bibliographies and in scientific writing, but in fiction writing, it is often better to avoid their overuse.

 

Braces { }  This third type is used in programming language, as well as in mathematical and other specialized writing. Do not use them in place of parentheses or brackets.

 

 

 

Capital or Lower Case?

I posted a version of this more than five years ago and with apologies to two followers who clicked on it then, and are still with me, I felt it was time to post it again.

Capital letters are important, but should they be used on all important words? Not necessarily.

Here are some general guidelines about where capitals should and should not be used.

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Of course we begin a sentence with a capital letter. That helps to alert us that a new thought is beginning.

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Important people get capital letters. We are all important, so our names begin with capital letters. If you happen to be the prime minister or president of a country, or even a king, queen, prince, or princess, you would have a capital letter on your title as well, but only when it is used as your name. Here are some examples:

Prime Minister Smith said to President Kendall, “Are you expecting a visit from King John this year?”

Mr. Kendall said, “Haven’t you heard? John is no longer a king. He abdicated to marry that woman who isn’t even a princess or a duchess, or any kind of royalty.”

“Aren’t we lucky? A prime minister or a president doesn’t have to worry about that.”

***

One of the most common misuses of capitals is in naming family members. Mother, father, mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandpa, and grandma do not get capital letters unless that word is used as their proper name.

When you say, “my mother,” “the mother of the family,” or, “a mother and father,” think of it as if you had a cat or a dog and were saying, “my dog” or “my cat.” You wouldn’t use a capital for dog or cat.

Here are some examples:

My dog can do tricks. See the tricks Rover can do.

My mom is amazing. See what Mom can do. (Here it is used as her name.)

I love my dad. Do you love me, Dad?

My cat is sweet and loving. I love Scruffy.

That is my aunt over by the table. I can see Aunt Mary by the table.

***

Places like heaven and hell are very important, but even they are not capitalized.

You can wish you were in heaven or tell someone to go to hell perfectly well without the capitals.

The same holds true for the moon, the sun, the stars, the planets, and even the whole universe. No capitals. But the proper names of planets, stars, and constellations do get capitals.

Now, having said that the planets get capitals, that is true of Mars, Venus, Jupiter, etc., but Earth is a little bit different. It is capitalized when it is used as a proper name (We live on Earth) but when it has “the” in front of it (the earth is round) it is not capitalized.

Think of it as having a dog named Dog.  I’m going to feed Dog now. But I’m going to feed my dog named Dog.

So I live on Earth and the earth is round.

***

Important buildings do not get a capital letter unless they are specific ones. The White House is a specific building, so it is capitalized. But if I live in a house that is painted white, it is only a white house.

The same holds true for any university you may be talking about. It only warrants a capital letter if it is a specific university, such as Cambridge University or any other university with a proper name attached.

Do you go to church? If church is important to you, it still doesn’t get a capital letter unless you are speaking of a certain one. Do you go to St. John’s Church?

***

Words like nature, spring, summer, autumn, and winter, are all lower case words.

***

And lastly, I would like to mention a very common capitalization mistake and that involves the directions of the compass. When the words are written out, south, east, west, and north are not capitalized. Neither are southeast, southwest, northeast, and northwest. But if you use abbreviations (SE, SW, NE, NW), these are capitalized, of course.

***

If you are in doubt, use the dictionary. Don’t you think that’s a capital idea?

Serial Commas

The old way of listing items was not to put a comma before the final conjunction.

Example:

Her favourite foods were pasta, salad, fish and avocados.

But fish and avocados don’t really belong together the way salt and pepper do, so the trend has been to add an extra comma to make this clear. The following way has become accepted.

When you list three or more items in a series, a comma should appear before the conjunction.

Here are some examples:

Her favourite foods were pasta, salad, fish, and avocados.

I chopped wood, George put it in the wheelbarrow, and Sam stacked it in the woodshed.

If two of the items belong together (like bread and butter or macaroni and cheese) there is no comma between them.

Example:

Her favourite foods were salad, fish, macaroni and cheese, and avocados.

Or:

Her favourite foods were salad, fish, avocados, and macaroni and cheese.

If your sentence contains a series whose elements are all joined by conjunctions like “and,” “or,” or “but,” no commas are needed, although you might want to put them in if the elements are long.

Example:

Turn left on Torrance and immediately turn right on Lazo and then go straight ahead for about half a mile until you get to my road, or take a taxi and avoid all that frustration.

One annoying thing I have noticed writers do when they make a list is to leave out the final conjunction before the last item.

Example:

Her favourite foods were pasta, salad, fish, avocados.

 (Please don’t do this. Just put that “and” in front of avocados and make me happy.)

Her favourite foods were pasta, salad, fish, and avocados.

The Necromancer’s Daughter

 

Author, Diana Wallace Peach has written another wonderful novel for your entertainment.

She started writing later in life when years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books. She was instantly hooked.

Peach lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two owls, a horde of bats, and the occasional family of coyotes.

There, she lets her imagination run wild and reshapes these ideas into novels that you will find absolutely spellbinding.

Her latest, The Necromancer’s Daughter will have you turning pages and not wanting to take a break from reading it.

My review of The Necromancer’s Daughter.

Necromancy, the art of communicating with the dead and bringing them back to life, seems like a sinister practice, but in Diana W. Peach’s fantasy novel, The Necromancer’s Daughter, it is presented as a good thing—for the most part, that is.

The characters who practice necromancy in the novel are all healers, well-intentioned people who are motivated to help the sick and injured get well—in some cases, even after the patient has died. Nothing sinister about it. We see the good that can come of restoring a life nearly lost forever, but we also see the dark side that lurks behind this skill. Some who are outside the circle of the healers, are convinced that bringing someone back to life is more akin to witchcraft or the black arts.

Aster, the newborn daughter of the king, died at birth, but was secreted away and revived by Barus a poor crippled young man who had learned about medicines and healing … and necromancy.

As Aster grows up in his care, she learns the healing arts, including necromancy, and uses them to do good. When she meets Joreh, about the same time as a struggle develops over the lineage for the throne, sparks fly between them. But when Joreh sees for himself that Aster practices the black arts, he is conflicted and unsure if he can, in good conscience, continue to protect her.

Joreh and Aster are meant for each other, but their beliefs seem to be in constant opposition. Joreh’s father is actively trying to gain control of the kingdom by destroying Aster, her physically disabled “father,” and possibly even his own son.

Beautifully written in rich language, The Necromancer’s Daughter is a “must read.” Not only is a fantasy world created perfectly, but the interpersonal relationships are skillfully crafted within the story. This book easily earns five stars, but only because that is the highest number available to give it. Otherwise I would give it more.

Don’t miss out. You will love this book.

 

The Necromancer’s Daughter Links:

Amazon Global Link: http://a-fwd.com/asin=B0B92G7QZX

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-necromancers-daughter-d-wallce-peach/1142003172

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-necromancer-s-daughter-1

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-necromancers-daughter/id6443278849

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1160370

 

 

 

Wrong or Easily Misused Words

Don’t confuse these words.

appraise/apprise

Appraise means to assess something, to find its value.

I will let the judge appraise my work.

Apprise means to inform.

I have already been apprised of what went on in yesterday’s meeting.

 

loose/lose

Loose means not secured, or in some senses, free.

The neck of the goose looks quite supple and loose.

Lose refers to misplacing something or incurring a loss.

I don’t want to lose the game.

 

fewer/less

Use fewer if you are referring to people or things that could be counted, while less is used for quantities or size.

A general rule is to use fewer for plural nouns and less for singular ones.

We had fewer people turn out for the meeting this week than last week.

As a result we took in less money.

 

amount/number

Amount is for poundage, for mass, for weight or volume.

She has a huge amount of money.

Number is for items that can be counted.

The number of thousand-dollar bills was staggering.

 

elder/older

Elder is used only to compare the age of people and is never followed by “than.”

She is the elder of the two sisters.

Older can be used in place of elder. It is used to describe things or people.

She is older than all of her siblings.

 

 

Verbs Again

Many times we use sentences that have clauses with a second verb in them. It’s important to keep the sense of time accurate. I liken it to keeping the boat on an even keel. We don’t want to lose balance, rocking the boat, and potentially ending up in a shipwreck.

I’d like to show some verb tenses and examples of how they can be used.

present/present

She knows the parade passes by her house every year.

present/past

I hear that you fell and broke your leg. What I don’t understand is why you climbed that tree in the first place.

past/past

I rushed out to the street when tires crunched, and a voice called for help.

past/prior past

We saw that George had hurt himself in a riding accident two years ago. He ignored the trainer’s instructions.

In this case, we are using the past tense to say that we knew about George’s accident. Then we use the prior past (often with “had”) to show that the action happened even earlier. Once that prior past is established  we don’t always need to include “had” in the verbs for the reader to know that we are still talking about the prior past. It can be done to reinforce that past setting but isn’t always necessary. You don’t want to end up with too many “had had’s.”

Above all, don’t mix your verb tenses randomly or you will confuse the reader and frustrate them, sometimes causing them to close your book forever.

We don’t want that to happen.

Characters and Dialogue

An author can reveal a lot about their characters through dialogue. Here are some of the things dialogue can do:

Advance the plot

“Get the boys together. Bring all the gear. We break in tonight.”

Reveal character traits and emotions

“I just can’t go through with it. I’m sorry, but I told you I’m nervous of causing trouble in the family.”

Firm up relationships or situations

“Look. I know you’re not the bravest when it’s crunch time, but I’m glad you told me now so I can get someone else.”

Allow confrontation

“Just don’t forget how you’ve let me down.”

“Don’t worry! I won’t forget. But don’t you forget that the disappointment works both ways.”

Add a turning point

“You didn’t tell me you were working for my worst enemy. How could you not have told me?”

“You didn’t ask.”

“I won’t forget this.”

Deliver information on weather, setting, or surroundings.

“Doesn’t this place have air conditioning?”

Tell about a quirk that a person might have

“Will you stop clearing your throat? You’re driving me crazy.”

Lead into a transition

“I’ll see you tomorrow, after I talk to the last witness.”

 

Using dialogue to provide all these types of information can make a novel much more interesting than merely telling the same information in a long, boring narrative.

Knowing Your Characters – Part Three

For readers to enjoy your book, it is most important that your characters and their behaviours are believable. I remember in my early efforts at writing, I created good characters who did everything right, and bad characters who did everything wrong. It was really hard for me to give my good characters any flaws, or to give the bad guy credit for doing anything right or having any redeeming qualities.

It took a lot of rewriting to shape believable characters for my first novel. But trust me, it gets easier. Think of any person you know and like a lot. Are they really perfect? Just because we easily forgive their shortcomings, doesn’t mean they are perfect and have no flaws. We just like to bury those flaws. Look hard and you will find a flaw that your character might have which the reader will forgive, but which also makes the character more human.

The same goes for someone we may not like. If we took the time to get to know them, we would have to admit that they’re not ALL bad. Give your antagonist some redeeming quality. You’ll be surprised how the reader will then care about what happens to him, or at least feel some empathy for his situation.

Using these flaws effectively can help enrich your novel and make it easier for your readers to believe what your characters do, and it enhances our emotional involvement with those characters. If we don’t care about the characters, why bother to read the book?

So we have to know our characters if we are to tell their story. We need to know their long-term goals and their short-term goals. We don’t want the reader to wonder, “Why would he do a thing like that?”

In building the background for the character’s motivation, we might work in some family background, some incidental things that help the reader understand why the character would react the way he does as the story develops. Short flashbacks can lay the groundwork for what has shaped the character’s emotional growth, his attitudes, and his ways of dealing with situations that will come up in your plot.

How else do readers learn about the characters?

  1. The author can simply tell about the character. This is probably the easiest way but not necessarily the most convincing.
  2. Have the character tell about himself.
  3. Have another character tell about him. (This way is more believable.)
  4. Show what the character is like by his actions.

All of these methods can be used, but the last one is probably the most effective and the most believable.

Body Language

If you take the time to find stronger verbs when the character is doing anything, you can often come up with something that more precisely describes how the character behaves. Does he stand or does he slouch? Does he limp? If so, why? Does he move erratically or are his movements smooth? Find the verb that accurately describes this.

For every action the character does, consider whether the verb you use is the best one to describe his particular way of doing things.

Emotions

You can show the character’s emotions using physical descriptions (sweat beading on his forehead, slumped shoulders, furrows in the forehead).

Another way is to show some action that tells how he might be feeling. Is he drumming is fingers, sighing heavily, flexing his jaw muscles, squinting or rolling his eyes, waggling his head, lifting his chin, biting his lower lip?

Dialogue

What a person says and how he says it can tell you a lot about how they are feeling and about what kind of person they are. This is a huge topic and I would like to deal with that in a separate post.

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Meanwhile, study the people around you and make a note of their flaws and their redeeming qualities. You’ll be surprised how useful these can be when you incorporate them in your writing.