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.

 

 

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.

*****

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.

Word Surprises

Did you know that impostor is spelled with “or” and not “er”?

Did you know that guttural is spelled with “ur” and not “er”?

In the word for a big fuss, which letters are doubled? Here it is – hullabaloo.

 

Gimme a gimmick any day,

To tell me a word is spelled which way.

Stationary and stationery are two words that are often confused. One means to stay in one place, and the other refers to letter-writing material.

The difference in the spellings is in the ending (ary or ery).

The “a”  in ary is like the “a” in place. I remained stationary (in one place).

The “e” in ery is like the “e” in letter. I wrote a letter on fine stationery.

EASY!

 

Easily Overlooked

You’ve written your first draft and you’ve read it over, perhaps focusing on some particular aspects of writing (like using your pet words too much, or checking for “ly” words), and after rereading your manuscript until you think you could recite it from memory, you feel ready to publish.

Not so fast! First, let’s check for some common mistakes. In a novel I recently read, I was reminded of two kinds of errors that are easily overlooked.

One involves words left out, and the other, words left in.

Here are some examples.

Sometimes, as you re-read, you realize that you’ve used a character’s name too many times within a few sentences, or you might have used too many pronouns when you should have used a name once in a while. So you make some changes. Let’s say you’ve used the name too often, so you put in “her” instead of “Miss X,” but you don’t take out “Miss X” until you’ve had a chance to reread the whole section, checking for a good balance of names and pronouns.

You get into your self-editing and several pages later, you remember that you should read it all over. This is when the brain and the eyes start fighting. You’re already getting tired and as you read, your brain tells you, “I know what this is supposed to say. I wrote the thing. I know what it says.”

Your eyes tell your brain, “Yes, that’s what it says. I know because I’ve read it so many times already. It’s fine.”

But is it?

“Miss X” is mentioned several times in the chapter, but now, one of the sentences has “Miss X” AND “her” as well.

The road was rough and the driver reached over to check her Miss X’s seatbelt.

See how easily that slipped in there?

Very often, mistakes like this are added to the text with the purpose of fixing a problem, but it ends up causing a different one.

*****

Correcting sentences where words have been left out is even harder to do. Again, our brains tell us what we know the text to be, and the eyes go along with it in agreement. But as we read work over too quickly, we think that all the necessary words are in there. That is how many small words are left out (words like: to, at, in, an, it). A good way to catch these omissions is to read your work out loud.

A similar error occurs when we type “and” for “an” or “it” for “if” or “in,”

*****

A word of advice:

Don’t work at your self-editing for too long in one session. Take breaks. I have often noticed that when I find mistakes in the writing, they occur close together within a page or two. This tells me that the writer was probably getting tired at that point.

*****

 

 

Words like Gold Nuggets

I was reading “Fortune’s Rocks” by Anita Shreve and had a mixture of reactions throughout the experience.

First, I was dismayed at the use of such stuffy language, but I soon realized that it suited the 1899 New England setting perfectly. This was the way people in the wealthier class spoke and thought in those days.

In a short time I stopped noticing the stuffiness of the language, and felt immersed in that time and lifestyle.

So it was, that I scoffed only mildly when the mother who was hosting guests at her summer home did not want her photo taken. One of the guests had taken up photography and the hostess was not a fan of these new contraptions called cameras. The reaction of the hostess was not out of character, but had me chuckling about her overly sensitive personality.

When I read on, I was absolutely thrilled with Anita Shreve’s description of the photography session that followed.

This quote from the book tells how it played out as the other guests, one by one, sat to have their photos taken.

Even Olympia’s mother, in the end, relents and allows herself to be photographed, albeit behind a veil with eyes lowered, flinching each time she hears the shutter click, as though she might be shot.

This description had me laughing out loud, as I imagined the scene. It was then that I realized that much of the writing was so precisely worded that I was able to picture it clearly in my mind. Reading this book became like watching a movie.

I kept chuckling over the above quote for some time and finally decided I would write a short note to the author to tell her how much I was enjoying her book. I Googled her name to get a webpage contact, but immediately the search told me that Anita Shreve had died on March 29, 2018 at the young age of 71.  My happy mood was dashed and I felt shocked and saddened to find out this bad news.

Still, Anita has left a legacy of many fine books for us to enjoy.

Now I am wondering if you readers out there have had similar discoveries of passages that are nuggets of entertainment.

If you have, why not share them in your comments. Book title, author, and quote. We’d love to see what you’ve found.

 

Samples from Julia’s Violinist

Anneli[7]

Anneli Purchase

“Julia’s Violinist” is the story of a love triangle set in Europe and Canada and spanning the decades from about  1912 to 1973.

Here are some samples from the book.

The character description is of Karl’s mother, Alana:

At last she stepped up onto the tram. Oh, it was good to be out of the wind. Alana unbuttoned her jacket and let it hang loosely. She sat and, with practiced detachment, ran her hand down the length of her leg, enjoying the feel of her chic, new silk stockings. The appreciative gazes of the male passengers pleased her. She smiled smugly at the women, inviting their disparaging glares.

The setting is of a classroom in a German boys’ school in the 1920s:

Herr Solberg took Karl by the scruff of the neck and hauled him into the school, lifting him so that the tips of his toes were all that touched the ground as he walked. Karl tingled with excitement. At the end of the break, the class had to witness his punishment. Karl stood at the front of the classroom looking at the faces of his classmates. Some covered their mouths to hide their expressions of horror at the pain they knew was coming, while others beamed openly in gleeful anticipation.

The scene ending is of Karl being freed from POW camp in 1946:

The Russian guard tossed a tatty bundle of letters to him and read the next name. Karl was stunned. Not a single letter for over a year and now, on the last day, a bundle of … thirty-one, he counted. All from Julia.

He was frantic with wanting to open them, but nothing, not even these special letters, could make him lag behind in the POW camp. Out! Out! Just get out first, and then I can look at them.

As soon as he was out of sight of the prison camp, he sank down on the ground beside the road. His hands trembled as he opened the first letter. Through tears he saw her lovely handwriting, so perfect and neat; words that spoke of loneliness and longing. Each letter contained a small anecdote of Julia’s home life and ended with the hope that they would see each other again. Around the edges of the pages his name was written over and over in a border design, “KarlKarlKarlKarl. I miss you, Karl.”

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there. Other recently released POWs walked by. No one stopped. They had seen it all and there was nothing unusual about a man sitting in the dirt crying his eyes out as he read his mail.

 

Front Cover Only

 

Still on sale for about 99 cents through January.

Julia’s Violinist is available in paperback and all e-book formats at Smashwords.com

and at all amazon sites, particularly

amazon.com

amazon.co.uk

amazon.de

amazon.ca

Find out more at my website: http://www.anneli-purchase.com 

A Few Irky Things

With so many books being self-published these days, one vital step is often left out because it is a way to save money. Why spend money on a copy-editor when your best friend or your Aunt Mary has already read your book and said it was wonderful?

I can tell you why. It’s to save your reputation as a writer. Your best friend and your Aunt Mary will always tell you, “That’s a lovely book, dear,” but your copy-editor will tell you the truth and so spare you the humiliation of making countless small mistakes and maybe even some big ones.

I’ve frequently heard authors say, “I had my friend read it and she said it was great. She’s a teacher so she knows all about grammar and punctuation.”

Well, surprise, surprise, a lot of teachers make mistakes too. If you have a good copy-editor go through your manuscript, I can almost guarantee you’ll be shocked by the number of errors they find.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately; more than usual because of having a new Kindle. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve groaned over finding errors in the writing. One book I read recently had run-on sentences all over. It drove me crazy! Luckily the plot was interesting so I hung in there, even in spite of the many other mistakes I found, but you can be sure I won’t be reading a second book by that author.

If you’re a writer, this is exactly the reaction you want to avoid.

One of the common mistakes I’ve been finding is in the use of the past tense of certain words.

Here are some examples:

Today I lead my horse to water. Yesterday I lead my horse to water.

Unless the author meant the heavy metal, as in a lead pipe, the past tense of “lead” (leeeeeed) is “led,” not “lead.”

 

He sung a song as he hiked along. No. He sang a song.

He swum across the river. No. He swam across the river.

 

Another mistake I hear almost daily, especially in TV news reports and interviews, is “with regards to.”

This literally means that the person is sending his regards, his greetings, to someone.

The correct way is to say “with regard to,” or “as it regards” something.

 

Lately one of my pet peeves is the misuse of “amount.” This word is used when you are referring to something that is a mass, possibly something that could be weighed in a lump, or, at least, something that can’t be counted individually.

For example, you can have an amount of rain (tons of it coming down in rivers), or if you are referring to individual drops, you would say the number of drops (never the number of rain or the amount of drops). In last summer’s drought I remember saying, “We had about ten drops of rain, but no amount of rain would save my garden at this point.”

You could refer to the amount of garbage that has piled up in the alley, or the number of styrofoam cups in that garbage, but never the number of garbage or the amount of styrofoam cups.

In a crowd you can count the number of people, but not the amount of people, unless you are measuring them by poundage. I can imagine them on all a giant weighing platform.

These are just a few of the irky things I see in unedited or poorly edited books, and they all serve to lower the author in my esteem.

I have been copy-editing for a long time. If I have convinced you that you need me, just leave me a comment. If you don’t need a copy-editor just now, I’d still be happy to hear from you.

 

Why You Need a Copy-editor

Lately I have been reading a lot of crime thrillers. The e-book versions are reasonably priced and I’m reading so many of them that I don’t remember them for long afterwards. It’s a bit like watching an episode of Law and Order or F.B.I. Why bother to remember them unless they are really unique and make a big impression?

Unfortunately, many of the books I’ve encountered as I go through my crime spree of reading, have elicited groans of disgust and frustration from me as I read what might have been a good book, but for the grammatical errors and word usage mistakes.

I won’t even mention lay and lie.

The most original, yet horrifying, error I have seen in a long time was used in a sentence that talked about what the elite do at a public gathering while “the sheeple snap pictures.” I did a double take on that one. “Wha-a-a-a-at?!” I had to read that  over again. “The sheeple snap pictures.” This author needs a copy-editor for sure.

I can’t remember if it was the same author or another one who called one FBI agent by different names throughout the book. Let’s say the agent’s name was Brad Benton. On one page he would be referred to as Agent Brad, and on another he would be Agent Benton, and so it alternated all the way through. All the other agents in the book had only one name each throughout.

Now for an expression that had me growling as I read. Two different characters in this book were described as having intelligent eyes. Can anyone tell me how an eye can have intelligence? I suppose all the other characters in the book had stupid eyes. Not only is it impossible for eyes to be intelligent, but this miraculous phenomenon took place at least six times in the book, once a mere two pages apart.

Puhleeze! Get yourself a copy-editor, unless you want to achieve fame for all the wrong reasons.

 

 

What Turns Readers Off

A couple of weeks ago I read a review of a book on someone’s blog and I was intrigued by the plot of the featured book. Thankfully I have forgotten the name of that book so I don’t need to worry about accidentally giving away the name or shaming the author, which I would never purposely do.

But as I read the synopsis of the book, I was seriously going to download the book and went to the link on amazon to do just that. I did what I usually do before downloading an e-book and clicked on the book cover’s “Look Inside” feature.

I read two pages and knew that I would not be able to stomach reading this book, no matter how good the plot was or how wonderful the story might be.

What turned me off in those first two pages?

It was the “ing” words. I can’t give specific examples from the book, and to be honest, I don’t really want to do that, but you’ll get the picture if I give you some generic examples. (To be fair, the dialogue was more interesting than what I will give here, but my examples are merely to make the point about the tiresome overuse of “ing” words.)

“What do you think?” she asked, twirling a lock of her hair in between her fingers.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said, grinning at her. “Why don’t you tell me what you think first?” he asked, looking at her slyly.

Getting up and walking around the room, she pondered her response. “It was good, don’t you think?” she asked, giving him a hopeful smile.

Jumping up to hug her, he said, “You’ve guessed right.”

*****

I just couldn’t handle a whole book of that, so I didn’t download that novel that was probably a great story, but written with a major weakness in writing style.

A good copy-editor could have saved the author from him/herself.

www.anneli-purchase.com

Conversations and Punctuation

Dialogue adds interest for the reader and helps to bring them into the story, almost as if they were an invisible bystander in a conversation. It also helps to break up what could be dreary paragraphs of narrative that could be a turnoff after a while.

Using a conversation helps to show, rather than tell, what the characters are feeling. So, great! Why not use some dialogue to perk up the story? But be sure to do it right, or your reader will give up in disgust.

Some basic punctuation rules will help to make your dialogue look professional.

First of all, think of your dialogue as a sentence just like any other with a capital letter at the beginning and a period at the end.

Second, we want to show which words the person said. These go between double quotation marks.

“You sure are bossy,” Joe said.

The part that is inside the quotation marks is like a sentence within a sentence, but instead of a period at the end of what he said, we put a comma, or a question mark if it is warranted. These go INSIDE the closing quotation marks.

If there is a quotation inside a quotation, you would use single quotation marks to show that.

“Did he say ‘You sure are bossy’?” Darryl asked.

Supposing Joe had more to say, and wants to continue his sentence. The dialogue tag (Joe said) interrupts the words he is speaking, so we use a comma to separate it from the spoken words and no capital letter is needed to continue the words he spoke .

“I’ve asked you three times already,” Joe said, “if you’d like to go to the movies with me.”

However, if Joe has two or more sentences to say, we must treat them just like any other sentences, separated by a period.

“I’ve asked you three times already,” Joe said. “That tells me you don’t want to come with me. Why didn’t you just say so?”

If you are trying to show that the character is thinking some words, these are put into italics and not within quotation marks.

“I’ve asked you three times to come to the movies with me,” Joe said. I guess that should have told me she doesn’t want to go.

If you have dialogue at the end of a paragraph and perhaps the speaker is changing the subject, so you want to start a new paragraph as he continues to speak, you leave off the final quotation marks but begin the new paragraph with quotation marks. This way we know it is still the same speaker. If it is a new speaker, we put the closing quotation marks on the sentence before beginning a new quotation.

“I painted the house since you were gone,” Joe said. “I hope you like it.

“By the way, would you like to come to the movies with me tonight?” he added.

Also, notice that no capital is used to begin the dialogue tag (he added) after the quotation, unless it is a person’s name, of course.

“I hope this helps you with your punctuation,” Anneli said, “especially in the case of a sentence interrupted by a dialogue tag.” I wonder what they’ll think. Will they leave a comment to tell me?