Crime fiction blogger par excellence Margot Kinberg recently posted on a subject dear to my heart: how writers capture nuances of language and dialect in dialogue without either sounding condescending or alienating the reader.
Years ago I read a novel set in Bali called The Kris of Death (I still recall the title, haunted by it) wherein nearly all dialogue was written in the sort of pidgin English which non-native speakers may use and which native English speakers frequently use when speaking with them. It was excruciating!
Later, when I invented my Bangkok based Australian expat PI Jayne Keeney, I knew she would need to be a fluent Thai speaker in order to avoid the same pitfall. This enables me to signal to the reader that the conversation is taking place in Thai and write normally, albeit with a little Thai syntax. I reserve my (rare) use of pidgin English in order to shed light on a character or mine the potential comedy of a situation.
Anyway, here’s Margot’s take on the theme.
* Following Margot’s lead, this re-blogged post takes its title from the song ‘Downunder’ by the Australian band Men At Work.
An interesting comment exchange with Australian author Angela Savage has got me thinking about dialects and accents. Before I go any further, let me encourage you to check out Savage’s books Behind the Night Bazaar and The Half Child. Both are believable and engaging mysteries in a deftly-drawn Thai setting and feature the likeable PI Jayne Keeney. Seriously, I recommend them.
Now, on to the whole question of dialect and accent. Here’s the challenge for the author when it comes to dialogue. On the one hand, we all know that people speak differently. Even people who speak the same language may very well speak different dialects of it depending on all sorts of factors (age group, education ethnic background, socioeconomic class and region being just a few of them). So if an author wants to create a believable character that character has to speak in a believable way. For…
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