Y’all aren’t from around here, are ya?

I’m using a surprising amount of dialect in my current project. Why surprising? Because dialect usually pisses me off. I’ve seen it so thick in some books that it becomes hard to parse, sort of like the story was written by lolcats.

However, sometimes the level of dialect can be just right as with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird. That’s more of the direction I’m aiming for. I’ve used dialect in dialogue before, but now I’m slipping it into the narrative, too.

Take the following sentence from my project: “If a body stopped in the night on the side of the road and had to get out to do…whatever, he turned the radio down before he did.” I wouldn’t normally use that “body,” but I slipped it in for a sense of dialect, just to make the tone more country.

Eh, I’m still not sure if I like it. I’m afraid that as I gain momentum with my project, hurtling toward the finish line as it were, I’m dropping my dialect in my narrative, but keeping it in dialogue. Nothing to say I can’t inject it as needed later, much like I do with description, another aspect of story-telling that gets lost as I hurry to finish a first draft while I’m still “feeling it.”

What about you? Pro dialect? Or do you like your narrative told in a more neutral style? What do you leave out of your first drafts that you know you’ll have to amp up later?


10 thoughts on “Y’all aren’t from around here, are ya?

  1. Pro dialect, anti accent. I think dialects help the reader understand what kind accent a character has or where he/she comes from without having to resort to spelling out an accent. Example of spelling an accent: “mah” instead of “my”. Think about a book like the Help, which used all dialect and no accent.

  2. It’s such a subjective issue. It all depends on the book and how expert the writer is at conveying dialect. I prefer very little dialect because I find it distracting. For me, the Scottish dialect is the most distracting. I feel like I’m reading English in a foreign language–if that makes sense.

  3. I’m using a little dialect in my current novel but have conflicting feelings about including it in the narrative. It’s in 3rd person, so it feels like I’m calling attention to the narrator when I include it in anything but dialog. Can’t make up my mind how to handle it. 😦

    Setting always has to be layered in after the first draft. I can’t think of action and scenery at the same time.

  4. In my YA urban fantasy, I have a group of teenagers from all over the place… I’m trying to include dialect to reflect their social circles, and it’s hard! I’m afraid of making it too overwhelming, but if I don’t allow it to be noticed at all, I take something away from the character and the realism. It’s definitely something I’m going to be spending time on during the editing process.

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