Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Can You Hear Me How?

I love the way the Brits say "Jaguar."Or maybe there's just something about an accent (and a nice suit). Either way, this commercial got me thinking about dialogue and the way characters speak. I know when I'm writing dialogue, I hear each character speak in a certain way and try and put that on the page. This has been a challenge with the characters in my current project, The Whirlwomen Trilogy. The characters are from different regions, eras, cultures (and possibly more) and I try and keep those distinctions present through their speech.

I maintain these distinctions in various ways. For instance, my time travelers from ancient Ebla do not use contractions. This gives their dialogue a formal tone. Conversely, the budding mage from N'awlins has a relaxed way of speaking littered with contractions--some of which he makes up on the fly. The time leap involved in the story also offers a convenient way to give characters distinct voices through their word choice. Just think how the English language has been influenced over the years due to technological and sociological shifts. Better yet, google it.

Accents, however, are a little more difficult to convey aside from including them in the character description. Spelling variations sometimes work-- "I love the sneekah bah!"(Snicker bar). But they can also be hit or miss, or worse, considered a typo. If I'm going to use a spelling variation, I make sure it is an effective one. Oftentimes, my editor disagrees.

Dialogue sets characters apart. It can also show how a character is acclimating to a new environment through subtle changes in lexicon. Write precise dialogue and each characters will have a unique voice bringing them that much closer to stepping off of the page.

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