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Ieshwar

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Hi!

 

Right now, I'm working on a story where the protagonist is a from a rural area. He wasn't much educated and his mother tongue is definitely not English. He does know English more than others because he works in a hotel and is in contact with Emglish. So when writing his part of conversation, should I write it same as other characters (who speak English fluently) or try to demark his words because in reality, it won't be the same?

 

If try to make it different, how should I do it? I mean, he comes from a country where French is more 'fluently' spoken. So he will definitely have an accent. For example his 'zere', 'zey'... But I have thought of not going to that point and rather change his change his way of talking, I mean, his sentence structure. He will be more prone to say "Yes, I will be there. You do not worry." instead of 'Yeah, I'll be there. No worries!"

 

Or should I tell my muse to shut up and tell make him English native? But I don't like this too much. I want him to be from that country! Perhaps, I shouldn't be stubborn?

 

So?

 

Take care,

Ieshwar

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Having a major character who speaks exclusively in accent/argot is indescribably annoying for a reader. I realise that suspension of disbelief becomes difficult if the Frenchmen speaks perfect English, but having every single 'th' pronounced as 'z' will infuriate readers after a while. If I were you, I would keep a simple sentence structure (but not too simple) and just work in a plot detail that has him speak good English. Maybe he's a fast learner who picked it up quickly at work, or maybe he had a pen pal from England, etc.

 

Another good trick is to have most of his lines be fairly fluent, but have a few where he struggles to find a word he doesn't know. That way, the dialogue isn't annoying, but you still remind the reader that the isn't a native speaker. I just read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest the other day, and the entire effing book is written in working-class argot; I was ready to throw the book out the window when I finished it.

 

Menzo

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Dialogue is not supposed to be real -- it is just supposed to sound real. Think of it like a soap opera on TV, or a movie. The dialogues sound real, but if you compare them to real life there are none of the hesitations and pauses you normally hear.

 

The idea is to include enough hints and pointers to give the characters a rounded feel, without hitting the reader over the head with a sledgehammer. For example, even in my stories, set in Australia, I'm frugal with the "G'day" and "mate" comments. I include enough so that they reader gets a feel that the characters are Australia, but not so much they have to struggle.

 

If you're talking about a French character, just do something like have them use "Merci" instead of "Thank you", or similar. It means most of what they say will be in English and easy to read, but there will be the occasional reminder that they aren't a native English speaker.

 

If he's not well educated, show it by his choice of words, not the way he says them. Don't use formal words when an informal version can be used instead, though he'll probably have an expanded vocabulary in rural terms compared with an urban character (eg. he'll understand the difference between cows, cattle, heifers, bulls and steers, which an urban character would just call them all cows...). Some authors like the "Wanna" and "Can ya", though I personally don't do that. There's nothing wrong with it -- it's a personal choice thing.

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sometimes simply stating he is speaking with an accent and occasionally have someone not understand him works too. As for the structure example, I think that is ok in small doses, like maybe when he is more emotional. Which is also when he may slip in a word or phrase from his native tongue (which should be easily identifiable from context for the non-french speakers out there). However for the most part he should 'speak' standard whatever-language-you-are-writing-in.

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I will go with the general consensus.

 

Graeme, I now understand what you meant when you said that Satyamev Jayate's different culture is a 'part' of it and doesn't overpower the story.

 

Ieshwar, I'd suggest the same thing. Be subtle in your writing and don't make it too obvious that the poor guy is not a native English-speaker.

 

I'm sure you'll do well... :)

 

BeaStKid

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Well, thanks for the advices. I have decided to be neither too formal nor too informal. Just try to walk in between. A bit like someone trying to be informal though he doesn't how to exactly.

 

And I will probably try to decide on the choice of words. For example, he will be saying 'objects' instead of 'artifacts' or 'hand-made articles' instead of 'handicraft articles'.

 

Anyway, it will be small differences and will be present only in the first two chapters.

 

Take care,

Ieshwar

 

How often to people in your stories use the word 'artifact'? :blink:

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Graeme, I now understand what you meant when you said that Satyamev Jayate's different culture is a 'part' of it and doesn't overpower the story.

It is often difficult to know when to shut up....

 

For example, if you are writing for a predominantly North American audience, you don't need to explain the rules of the game they call 'football' (American Rules Football, or gridiron). On the other hand, if you are writing for an Australian audience, you do, because most of us have no ideas what those rules are. However, you also need to have a story and not just echo the rulebook, so you have to be careful on what you leave out, what you include and how you include it.

 

In your story, you had a culture that isn't familiar to most of the readers, so you needed to explain some things, but you kept those explanations as a natural part of the story and didn't go on too long with the explanations.

 

I'm familiar with the problem because there are parts of Australian culture that are different to that in the USA and I have to try to point out those differences without being too heavy-handed. In my first novel, I had a fight at a basketball game of high school aged students. I had an early reader question why it wasn't in the news the next day. I realised I had to change the story to make it clear that this was not a USA-style High School basketball game, but was a minor local game with a handful of spectators.

 

I have the advantage that all of my beta-readers are American, but I've also educated them so much on Australian differences that sometimes something slips through without a comment....

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  • 2 weeks later...
But I have thought of not going to that point and rather change his change his way of talking, I mean, his sentence structure. He will be more prone to say "Yes, I will be there. You do not worry." instead of 'Yeah, I'll be there. No worries!"

I like this idea.

 

Having a major character who speaks exclusively in accent/argot is indescribably annoying for a reader. I realise that suspension of disbelief becomes difficult if the Frenchmen speaks perfect English, but having every single 'th' pronounced as 'z' will infuriate readers after a while. If I were you, I would keep a simple sentence structure (but not too simple) and just work in a plot detail that has him speak good English. Maybe he's a fast learner who picked it up quickly at work, or maybe he had a pen pal from England, etc.

 

Another good trick is to have most of his lines be fairly fluent, but have a few where he struggles to find a word he doesn't know. That way, the dialogue isn't annoying, but you still remind the reader that the isn't a native speaker. I just read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest the other day, and the entire effing book is written in working-class argot; I was ready to throw the book out the window when I finished it.

 

Menzo

GOOD POINT! I know that's one of the main reasons I couldn't enjoy Mark Twain's work properly was because he so frequently used dialects. It just gets old...

 

Dialogue is not supposed to be real -- it is just supposed to sound real. Think of it like a soap opera on TV, or a movie. The dialogues sound real, but if you compare them to real life there are none of the hesitations and pauses you normally hear.

great point!

The idea is to include enough hints and pointers to give the characters a rounded feel, without hitting the reader over the head with a sledgehammer. For example, even in my stories, set in Australia, I'm frugal with the "G'day" and "mate" comments. I include enough so that they reader gets a feel that the characters are Australia, but not so much they have to struggle.

Personally I like the stories to have the local flavour without being, as you indicated, knocked over by it. I like the local slang and vernacular in the stories. I just don't the words themselves altered to try to indicate an accent.

Some authors like the "Wanna" and "Can ya", though I personally don't do that. There's nothing wrong with it -- it's a personal choice thing.

Hmm, this may seem hypocritical given what I've just said, but personally I do like these. To me they don't so much indicate an accent or even a geographic location as they do an accurate representation of how the average person is likely to speak. For example:

 

"you wanna come to the store with me?"

 

Is, IMO, a more likely way for the average person to pose that question than:

 

"Do you want to come to the store with me?"

 

I think:

 

"Ya wanna come wit me to da store?"

 

would be a bit over the top even though in everyday speech a lot of people would say it just like that.

 

 

It is often difficult to know when to shut up....

 

For example, if you are writing for a predominantly North American audience, you don't need to explain the rules of the game they call 'football' (American Rules Football, or gridiron). On the other hand, if you are writing for an Australian audience, you do, because most of us have no ideas what those rules are. However, you also need to have a story and not just echo the rulebook, so you have to be careful on what you leave out, what you include and how you include it.

 

In your story, you had a culture that isn't familiar to most of the readers, so you needed to explain some things, but you kept those explanations as a natural part of the story and didn't go on too long with the explanations.

Hmmm, this is a big pet-peeve of mine. Personally, I always get a bit irritated when the author interrupts the flow of the story to stop and spend a paragraph (or more!) explaining something. Like if the story is loosely set in a drag racing cultural I just don't want to hear about what the character is doing under the hood to "sup up" his engine. Just casually say he was making some modifications to it to increase its speed, then move on. Doing much more than that always makes me feel like the author is trying to impress us with his knowledge of whatever subject or else trying to get us to share in his passion for it.

 

So if the story involved American baseball even if it were being told to an English, Canadian, or Australian audience I'd prefer for the author to say "the crowd groaned when John pitched his fourth ball and walked the batter and John knew he had to get his head off Steve and back in the game if they stood a chance" than "the crowd groaned when John pitched his fourth "ball" - a pitch which fails to be in the strike zone (defined as the area between the batter's knees and elbows and within the width of the plate) and thus "walked" the batter, which is to say allowed him to advance to the next base without having hit the ball."

 

I would feel the same way if the story were about Cricket or Rugby. I'd actually love to learn more about these sports, but I'd generally prefer for the author to include enough casual facts about them to make me want to seek out more info on my own than trying to beat me over the head with it.

 

So anyway, yes, I agree with you Graeme, it's important to know how to walk that line! I think you usually do an extremely good job of doing just that ;)

 

In my first novel, I had a fight at a basketball game of high school aged students. I had an early reader question why it wasn't in the news the next day. I realised I had to change the story to make it clear that this was not a USA-style High School basketball game, but was a minor local game with a handful of spectators.

Considering that I don't watch the news perhaps I'm the wrong person to be commenting on this, but I wouldn't have assumed that a high school basketball game would make the news, even if there were a fight (unless it were an extremely violent fight and one or more people were seriously injured). Perhaps it has to do with my specific geographic location (football is the "big deal" HS sport here, not basketball or baseball) or because for the past several years I've lived in large cities, or simply because as I said I don't watch the news anyway, but it never would have occurred to me that such an event would make the news.

 

Anyway take care all and have an awesome day!

Kevin

Edited by AFriendlyFace
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Some authors like the "Wanna" and "Can ya", though I personally don't do that. There's nothing wrong with it -- it's a personal choice thing.

 

Hmm, this may seem hypocritical given what I've just said, but personally I do like these. To me they don't so much indicate an accent or even a geographic location as they do an accurate representation of how the average person is likely to speak. For example:

 

"you wanna come to the store with me?"

 

Is, IMO, a more likely way for the average person to pose that question than:

 

"Do you want to come to the store with me?"

 

I think:

 

"Ya wanna come wit me to da store?"

 

would be a bit over the top even though in everyday speech a lot of people would say it just like that.

As I said, it's a personal choice thing. There are some excellent authors (and editors) who use these and related terms, for the reason you indicate -- they more accurately reflect the dialect being spoken. Again, they would also avoid your last example as being too much. It's what I said earlier -- flavouring things just enough to give a feel for what is going on without hitting the reader with a sledgehammer. :mace:

 

I don't use them, but I don't think it detracts from my stories. Indeed, if someone got to the point of being picky about what word choices I made (someone, that is, other than my editor, who is really picky about my word choices), I would be either incredibly flattered that they cared enough about the story to want that extra refinement, or extremely upset that they had seemed to have missed the big picture of the overall story.

 

Considering that I don't watch the news perhaps I'm the wrong person to be commenting on this, but I wouldn't have assumed that a high school basketball game would make the news, even if there were a fight (unless it were an extremely violent fight and one or more people were seriously injured). Perhaps it has to do with my specific geographic location (football is the "big deal" HS sport here, not basketball or baseball) or because for the past several years I've lived in large cities, or simply because as I said I don't watch the news anyway, but it never would have occurred to me that such an event would make the news.

In this particular case, the game was called off and an ambulance called to take one player to the hospital. However, from my experiences as a basketball referee, I know it was unlikely to make the news. I had to make sure the readers would understand that, because the majority of readers will be from North America.

 

As a side note, I was advised with my first novel to use imperial measurements (eg. feet, inches, miles), rather than metric measurements that would be more common in Australia. This was because the target audience was largely North American. Since then, I try to avoid using measurement units completely, so I don't have to confront the topic. Instead, I'll do things like say that a place is four hours drive away, or a fifteen minute walk. That someone is tall, or short, but not state how tall or short. It means that the story can be read by a wider range of people without having them double-take with terms that they aren't used to. They get enough of that anyway, when I use Australian colloquialisms. :P

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