As I noted yesterday in the discussion about writing in the first person POV, readers had a pretty good reaction to "Sister Ophelia", in large part because of the voice of the narrator. If you've decided that stories that use dialect are automatically crap, I'd ask you to go read that story, then come back here for this discussion.
dum de dum...
OK, all done? Good.
First off, thanks to everyone for your kind comments about the voice of this character. Writing in dialect is tricky - nothing makes a story come alive like dialect done well, and nothing makes a story more intensely annoying than dialect done poorly. It's always with some trepidation that I do something like this. I didn't want the narrator to come off sounding like Pappy Yokum. Having someone end their aberrant verbs with an apostrophe, as in "the kids were tearin' all over" or "I cleaned up her sickbed and washed her linens for three days running, so don't tell me it was some angelic host come a'callin' out at our farm" can be really annoying if there's too much of it.
That there is walkin' a tightrope between authenticity and mockery, and there ain't too many writers as can pull it off without soundin' like they take their July vacations down at Lake Corn Pone.
Susan May James left a fantastic, detailed comment about the dialect usage in "Sister Ophelia". Then, in response to Susan, E.D. Lindquist related some of her experiences in writing dialect, including her conclusions that a) it's hard, and b) it's not her strong suit.
What makes dialect work? What makes it fail? The way that I write dialect is not to use strange punctuations, but choices of verbs and using unusual sequencing of words in the sentences. In other pieces, I've used other dialects, including a South Jersey gangster, Victorian England and blue collar loser. Each of these were a challenge, because I had to "hear" the dialect, and figure out a way to communicate it without laying it on so thickly that it became farce.
Do you write in dialect? Do you think it's necessary? Does it add to a piece or is it just a gimmicky distraction?
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