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citymouse
06-29-2008, 07:44 PM
I'm posting a question in this forum because of the level of commitment the beta readers here display.

My WIP takes place around 1900. The main characters are all Native Americans living in a hidden valley. A quirk of fate and geography has kept them from discovery from the white men and his world.

I grew up reading and hearing in films Indians speaking without English contractions. I believe this was done to show limited English usage and also to delineate between Natives and whites/Europeans.

My question is, in a novel length story (60,000-70,0000 wds) which would you as readers feel most comfortable reading or which would you prefer to read: dialogue without contractions or dialogue with contractions.

Thanks for your time!
C

newshirt
06-30-2008, 12:14 AM
I'd like to hear the contractractions. Here's why... Strong dialects (differing from the target audience) are difficult to read - even if they are historically accurate. The reader must slog through them, and that is unpleasant.

I believe the spirit of what they are saying can be captured with modern language. That makes the book easier to read. For lazy people like me. :)

--ray

lmclean
06-30-2008, 12:15 AM
Hi C !
I type medical transcription day in and day out. I do not type contractions unless it is a direct quote. That said, I have no problem reading without contractions.

I am only one opinion but it would pose no problem for me either way.

I hope that helps

Lee

citymouse
06-30-2008, 04:51 AM
Ray, I agree that any unusual usage that causes the reader to pause is for the most part not a good thing. That is especially true of novels.
My characters don't have strong dialects. The contractions I mean are the usual, don't for do not, shouldn't for should not, etc.

My inclination is not to use contractions and yet I want to avoid being tiresome. The Native Americans I have spoken with (Lakota) do not use contractions in their conversations with me. However, I am not writing for a NA audience. I suppose I could write without contractions and see what my Beta readers say. It wouldn't be difficult to find and change them.
C



I'd like to hear the contractractions. Here's why... Strong dialects (differing from the target audience) are difficult to read - even if they are historically accurate. The reader must slog through them, and that is unpleasant.

I believe the spirit of what they are saying can be captured with modern language. That makes the book easier to read. For lazy people like me. :)

--ray

citymouse
06-30-2008, 04:55 AM
Thanks Lee. I have a friend who reads every book on Native Americans she can lay hands on. She says that while 90% are straight usage some do use standard contractions. For her it's a non-issue.
My editor urges me to find the voice that seems right to me. Easy for her to say!
Thanks again for your input.
C


Hi C !
I type medical transcription day in and day out. I do not type contractions unless it is a direct quote. That said, I have no problem reading without contractions.

I am only one opinion but it would pose no problem for me either way.

I hope that helps

Lee

IceCreamEmpress
06-30-2008, 06:18 AM
There are linguistic structures that are the equivalent of contractions in most Native American and First Nations Canadian languages. So if you have two characters conversing in their native language in an informal setting, you should use contractions when reproducing that conversation in your English text.

If the characters are speaking English (as a second language, in the case of the NA characters), or speaking their native language in a formal setting, then don't use contractions.

Contractions vs. no contractions should indicate level of formality and/or level of comfort with the language being spoken rather than what someone's native language is.

newshirt
06-30-2008, 07:32 AM
My inclination is not to use contractions and yet I want to avoid being tiresome.

That's really my beef (if you can call it that). :) Your readers may not get it. They may not understand why you chose not to use them because they won't know the native usage. They'll say "gosh, this reads hard. I don't like it. Wah, wah, wah." And that's okay. Be true to your feelings, but realize that some people won't understand. If that's okay with your target audience, then proceed.

Just my opinion...

--ray

Matera the Mad
06-30-2008, 09:28 AM
I had my say here (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=97207) -- I hate hokey "tribal-speak"

citymouse
06-30-2008, 02:58 PM
Mad, So do I. My characters won't speak in anything other than English. I keep the Native American names and specific words to a minimum and al conversations will be in English.
C


I had my say here (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=97207) -- I hate hokey "tribal-speak"

lakotagirl
06-30-2008, 04:31 PM
Ditto what IceCreamEmpress said.

Matera the Mad
06-30-2008, 08:23 PM
Ner...what I meant was the stilted English fake-translation.

Sargentodiaz
06-30-2008, 10:01 PM
I would strike a middle road. In dialogue, don't use contractions. However, in expose, go ahead and use them.

IceCreamEmpress
06-30-2008, 10:44 PM
Mad, So do I. My characters won't speak in anything other than English.

I don't think I expressed myself clearly.

When, in the context of your story, two characters are talking to each other informally in their native language (even though you're reproducing that conversation in English), you should use contractions because you're depicting an informal, colloquial conversation in a language with which both the speakers feel familiar.

When, in the context of your story, one of your Native American characters is speaking English to a native speaker of English, you can depict that character's less-than-perfect familiarity in English by avoiding contractions.

Thus:

"Isn't Brave Bird coming back before nightfall?" asked White Crow. She swung the heavy pot over the fire.
"No, she'll be gone for many days," Standing Bear said.

versus

"Captain Ferguson, that is not true!" Brave Bird had never been so angry. "I am sure that those stories you have been told are lies."

citymouse
07-01-2008, 03:09 AM
Thanks ICE for the clarification. You're spot on. I'll do as you advise.
And thanks for all who took the time to respond to this thread. Perhaps I'll apply to some here when my ms is ready.
C


I don't think I expressed myself clearly.

When, in the context of your story, two characters are talking to each other informally in their native language (even though you're reproducing that conversation in English), you should use contractions because you're depicting an informal, colloquial conversation in a language with which both the speakers feel familiar.

When, in the context of your story, one of your Native American characters is speaking English to a native speaker of English, you can depict that character's less-than-perfect familiarity in English by avoiding contractions.

Thus:

"Isn't Brave Bird coming back before nightfall?" asked White Crow. She swung the heavy pot over the fire.
"No, she'll be gone for many days," Standing Bear said.

versus

"Captain Ferguson, that is not true!" Brave Bird had never been so angry. "I am sure that those stories you have been told are lies."