In When Skies Are Grey my characters, in the main, are either West Indian immigrants or working class west Londoners and I needed them to sound as such. There is a lot of information advising writers to be careful of foreign language speakers, dialect and colloquialisms in novels. Some say to steer clear of using dialect and some say to use it in moderation. I had no fear of using dialect as I judged that it could only enhance the story.
I considered Andrea Levy's use of the Jamaican dialect in Small Island. For example, Gilbert speaking to his friend as they try to set up a business says, 'Cha, nah, man, you no hear me, nah? We can collec' up the bees. This is jus' a likkle upset.' Monique Roffey's Sabine is The White Woman on the Green Bicycle who, after living in Trinidad for several years, begins to sound like the locals and proclaiming, 'Oh Gyaaaad...The heat! Jennifer I cyan take it.' And, in Brick Lane, Monica Ali uses foreign words and sometimes does not translate.
|The streets of Brick Lane at night in east London, the curry capital of London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I decided that my use of dialect for the West Indians would be a lot more subtle than the examples above, making it accessible to more readers but with carefully chosen sentences that imply my character's difference in speech.
At my writing critique group I was told by one member that I ought to go for the dialect more, make it stronger. But I remember when my novel Holding Paradise was with the editor and he did nothing but complain about my use of dialect, claiming that there would be far too many readers who wouldn't understand than there were who would so I try to appeal to the majority.
With that in mind I think I have a good balance of use of dialect in When Skies Are Grey and happy to leave everything as it is.
Any comments about use of dialect would be useful and interesting, so please have your say!