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Thread: Colloquial Language

  1. #1
    Mentoring Myself and Others Debbie V's Avatar
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    Colloquial Language

    I read a thread on this topic, but it wasn't geared toward children's writers or child readers. I'm working on a chapter book set in Louisiana in modern times. It is in first person present tense with a seven year old narrator. I'm using word choice to show language/ dialect in the narration. More than that would become unwieldy for the reader.

    Beta readers have suggested I cut final g in many of the words ending in -ing, use s'pposed instead of supposed, etc. in my dialog. I already have missing first words and contractions of is like, "Mama's mad."

    So here is the question, considering the age of the reader, How much is too much?

    Are kids sophisticated enough to read goin' even if they see going? I know I do that. Would the dropped gs become distracting to the young readers? Would they have the urge to correct things they've recently learned to write?

    Thoughts? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Sockpuppet
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    Because of Win Dixie is written in first person with a southern dialect.

  3. #3
    careful...you'll end up in my novel RuthD's Avatar
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    Debbie, I think a little goes a long way. What you're doing now sounds good; I would be cautious about trying to spell out dialect. That quickly becomes distracting for any age group.

    Because of Winn-Dixie is a great example, Rex. Kate DiCamillo sprinkles in the southern flavor subtly, and mostly through word choice--phrases like hollered and my mama and it ought to work out real good. She does not routinely drop g's.
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  4. #4
    Mushroom Polenth's Avatar
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    At the younger end, they most likely won't know that goin' is going and s'ppose is suppose. But even for adults, I wouldn't do that. Using word order and dialect words will make it sound like the dialect. You don't need accent marks.

    To try and explain that a bit, goin' and going are the same word said differently. If I write down 'going' on a piece of paper, and asked people to read it out, they would drop the g if that's how they speak. Dropping the gs is an attempt to write out the accent phonetically, rather than showing the dialect. It's generally not needed.

    Compare that to 'tis. If I write 'it is' on a piece of paper, even people who say 'tis are likely to read it as 'it is'. 'Tis is a different word to 'it is'. If I know my character would say 'tis, I have to write it out, because it's a dialect word, not due to accent. The same would go for things like y'all.

    Some words are borderline, like gonna and kinda. The root words and the dialect word are a lot closer. People may read out 'going to' as gonna if it's part of their normal speech, but they may not.

    So for me, I'd only use strong dialect words for a very young audience. As they get older, I'd mix in borderline words. But I'd avoid attempts to spell out the accent phonetically for any age, including dropping gs.
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    Reads more than she writes. AW Moderator Smish's Avatar
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    I agree with others. As Ruth pointed out, word choice goes a long way in creating a Southern feel. Dropping the g isn't necessary. And yes, I do think altering the spelling of words will confuse young readers.
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    practical experience, FTW MsJudy's Avatar
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    I agree: don't drop those letters!

    1) Try it for a page and see how frickin' many apostrophes you end up with. Messy.

    2) Chapter book readers will not understand -in'. My guess is the book won't get past the query stage if you do it with a chapter book.
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  7. #7
    Alas, poor Yorick, he fed me 'nanas DavidBrett's Avatar
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    I had a similar question, but didn't want to waste space with yet another thread...

    What about words like 'gonna' and 'outta'? If a young child is speaking, would these be acceptable? Or should I write them saying 'going to' or 'out of', even if it doesn't fit their character?

    Dave
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  8. #8
    Reads more than she writes. AW Moderator Smish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidBrett View Post
    I had a similar question, but didn't want to waste space with yet another thread...

    What about words like 'gonna' and 'outta'? If a young child is speaking, would these be acceptable? Or should I write them saying 'going to' or 'out of', even if it doesn't fit their character?

    Dave
    If it's a chapter book, I wouldn't use "gonna" or "outta". Chapter book readers are still pretty new to reading. Chapter books are damn hard to write. I've tried - and failed - quite a few times. In my opinion, they're the hardest books to write.

    Read lots of 'em. Study.
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  9. #9
    Alas, poor Yorick, he fed me 'nanas DavidBrett's Avatar
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    Someone clarify... Is a chapter book different from a novel? Am I right in thinking the former is short chapters for new readers (like Beast Quest)?

    My MG MS is a novel for the HP, Percy Jackson age-range...
    Mr Stuffenfluff - My FIRST attempt at horror for over a decade. Feedback welcome!

    Authors warn me writing children's books is a lot of work - signings, school events, literary festivals, a blog, etc. I always reply "I WANT THAT!"

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  10. #10
    careful...you'll end up in my novel RuthD's Avatar
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    Just discussed this here.
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  11. #11
    Mentoring Myself and Others Debbie V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MsJudy View Post
    I agree: don't drop those letters!

    1) Try it for a page and see how frickin' many apostrophes you end up with. Messy.

    2) Chapter book readers will not understand -in'. My guess is the book won't get past the query stage if you do it with a chapter book.
    This was my feeling too, but the Betas who commented are both well published. One teaches Writing for Children at Hofstra.

    I did do this and the number of apostrophes wasn't too bad because not every word is pronounced without the final g. Sometimes the g gets emphasized. Hard to figure out where to keep it though.

    I do feel that kids who read fluently will leave it out automatically, I know I do. those who don't may be confused by its absence. Thanks folks.

  12. #12
    Mentoring Myself and Others Debbie V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidBrett View Post
    Someone clarify... Is a chapter book different from a novel? Am I right in thinking the former is short chapters for new readers (like Beast Quest)?

    My MG MS is a novel for the HP, Percy Jackson age-range...
    Chapter books are for young readers who are ready for chapters. They can handle longer work independently, but the themes, language and length of novels are still too sophisticated. Winn Dixie is Middle Grade as were the first Harry Potters, ages 8-11 or so. Later HP books went up to YA as I understand it. I still haven't read them - I know, I know, I'll get there.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW
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    I don't know. Read the Mr. Gum series. Mr Gum and Billy William are baddies, and all their g's are missin'. They're always goin' to get up to evil then they're always a'goin' to go runnin' off after their evil business.

    My 7 yo learned very quickly to read words like goin'. Not to mention some of the very odd phrases and words Andy Stanton uses, all the time.

    If the story is good enough, and there is a reason, it can work. Certainly, Mr Gum wouldn't be half as much fun if he spoke the Queen's English. Part of the interest of Stanton's books for young readers is the way he uses and misuses English.

    Although maybe Mr Gum is for an older reader than your book?

  14. #14
    figuring it all out scarlett9284's Avatar
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    I definitely think that less is more with dialect. You don't want it to become distracting to the reader, or be hard to read.

  15. #15
    Trust: that most precious coin. little_e's Avatar
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    Different kids are going to have different abilities and tolerances. I remember reading Bre'er Rabbit stories as a kid, and loving the way they were written. I also remember trying to tell them to a friend, and her complaining that she couldn't understand a word I was saying.

    Dialect is one of those places where a little bit goes a long way. The occasional dropped g or colloquialism will probably be fine.

    And you could always ask a kid for their opinion.

  16. #16
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    This reminds me a bit of L. Frank Baum's Oz stories. In the first one, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", Dorothy speaks in straightforward English. In the sequels, when she returns, she speaks in mid-western dialect, which many readers felt disappointed by. (Eric Shanower's graphic novel adaptation of "Ozma of Oz" switched Dorothy's lines back to regular English.)

  17. #17
    Mentoring Myself and Others Debbie V's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses. I sent the manuscript this morning with all of its gs, but kept my ain'ts, gonnas and 'causes. I'll let you know what comes back.

  18. #18
    Reads more than she writes. AW Moderator Smish's Avatar
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    Good luck, Debbie. Definitely keep us posted!
    Revision is where you earn your money - and if you haven't made any money yet, revision is where you pay your dues. Sara Zarr

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