Saturday, 4 April 2015

D for Dialect

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.

English: The streets of Brick Lane at night in...
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!

6 comments:

  1. I enjoy books with a sprinkling of dialect; even if I struggle in the beginning, eventually I catch the rhythym and it enhances my reading experience. It also OK, I think, to leave an odd phrase or two untranslated as long as there is context and description (like facial expression or the situation itself) to aid the reader.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep - totally agree with that, too, Li. Thanks for dropping in.

      Delete
  2. Hi, Fran! I'm returning your visit. I prefer not to use a lot of dialect in my work, since I don't want readers struggling with it. I use just enough odd words to give a flavor of dialect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that's what I've gone with in When Skies Are Grey and I think it suits the novel. Thanks for visiting!

      Delete
  3. I think so much depends on the writer's skill, and how many people they want to appeal to as readers. I tend to prefer when the author goes light on dialects, a few words or a single speech pattern change. If the author goes too heavy I find myself rereading passages and it disrupts my enjoyment of the story. I don't mind the odd untranslated phrase as long as it's not critical to the plot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Looks like going light on dialect is the winner here. Hopefully I got the balance spot on for When Skies Are Grey. Thanks for dropping by!

      Delete