Regional dialogue

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Jo Zebedee

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I'm writing a book based in the Glens of Antrim and trying to capture voices without making them sound cliched Oirish. This isn't from anything, but I was served this morning by someone with the accent I'm trying to get and I wondered three things about specifically the dialogue in this (see the end):

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“Is that all?” He puts the goods in my bag, at the same time ringing in the school-boy-beside-me’s sweets.

“Aye.”

“Can ye manage?” He holds his hand out to the boy. “Nine’ny-nine pee. What’d ye do to yer wrist?”

I notice the boy beside me has a bandage on his wrist, a new one.

“Wha’?”

“Wha’ ye do?” The shopkeeper points. “To yer wrist.”

“Rugby.”

“Aye, that’ll do it.” He glances at me. “Cheers, see ye again.”






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What I wondered, first of all, is, when reading that, do you get the sense that the shopkeeper talks very fast? If not, any idea how I would convey it? The point of view character would not notice as the Ulster-dialect is very fast so I can't have her commenting on it.



And is it too many ye's and yer's (posessive apostrophe horror deliberate to show what I mean :D) in it; is it making those native to here wince? It would only be for a couple of characters.

And can non-natives understand a word of it? :D
 
If I deliberately read it in an Irish accent, it sounds credible. But because I don't, unless I force myself (even if I know the character is Irish) he just sounds drunk and his speech slurred. (I'll avoid the obvious joke.) Especially the "nine'ny" has this effect. And because the punctuation makes me slow down his voice to understand it, it doesn't give the sense that he's talking fast -- quite the reverse.

You might try leaving out words to give an impression of speed:

"Tha all?'

"Ye manage?" etc.
 
I didn't get a read on speed of speech, which seems like something hard to convey. The nine'ny little bit did read well. I'm not too sure about the ye and yers, though. Would y'manage read better?
 
I get the interaction, but not the fastness as I was imagining the shopkeeper standing back and doing things in his pace as the boy is not most responsive. And I don't think any other way to speed it up or make the image clearer than you adding in extra flavour and telling to the reader that the shopkeeper rattled his words out like a machinegun or something.

Also yes I can understand what's going on even if I have to stop to think what some bits means.
 
I have no trouble understanding the dialogue. However, I don't get the sense that he is talking particularly quickly. I wonder if you could convey that by concatenating the dialogue.

For example:
He passes me the bag, his eyes flicking between me and the boy. 'Can ye manage? Nine'ny-nine pee. What'd ye do to your wrist?' He holds out his hand for the money.
 
I divvint na wa ya're worried aboot, ya na warra meen.

Talkin proppa like what a dee always soonds better than some posh boy wiv silk shirts and painted letha dancin shoes rabbitin on wiv marbles in his mooth. :)

#garytalk
 
Harebrain, what did you mean by the punctuation slowing it down?

Only that the the words aren't instantly recognisable (same as with typos), so I can't read them as fast. Therefore, his speech reads slower than the rest of it.
 
I divvint na wa ya're worried aboot, ya na warra meen.

Talkin proppa like what a dee always soonds better than some posh boy wiv silk shirts and painted letha dancin shoes rabbitin on wiv marbles in his mooth. :)

#garytalk

Have you got something stuck in your teeth, Gazza? :D

I think it's spot on with the 'ye's' etc. The only problem is conveying that sense of speed to people who are unfamiliar with the accent. Titanium's idea seems a viable option. :)

Thanks! Ye's it is!

Only that the the words aren't instantly recognisable (same as with typos), so I can't read them as fast. Therefore, his speech reads slower than the rest of it.

Ah, that makes sense. Cheers.
 
If worried about how a regional dialect will come across, I simply refer to Hagrid in the Harry Potter books. Any sane person would have toned it down for a US audience, and goodness knows how the foreign rights translators were able to handle that!
 
I agree with Harebrain that I find the punctuation (and my working out what the words are) slows down my reading of the voice, and there is nothing else to indicate speed.

To add to Titanium's suggestion, could you add a thought from a close pov character such as "if only he didn't speak so fast I might have understood his accent better".
 
I think it is always good to have an on board translating computer, for this kind of scene.

So as the hero listens they translate and make their own commentary.

What the scene really misses is any reaction from the listener, or any emotion.

Something like.

Reflecting on the shopkeeper asking about the bandage, you could the hero reflecting on their local 24/7 in London, something like:

'I don't think I had ever heard Mr Patel from our One Stop ask anything more that the obligatory £1.50, even though I shopped there for over five years.. Here was a shop keeper who seemed to have a more sophisticated take on customer care...'

'The way he pronounced Rug by, with two descending syllables Rug -- Bee. To hear provoked such a strong memory of my primary school rugby coach, I had tears in my eyes.'


etc etc
 
Only that the the words aren't instantly recognisable (same as with typos), so I can't read them as fast. Therefore, his speech reads slower than the rest of it.
I had the same issue; and because I had to read it slower than normal, I subconsciously applied that slowness to the character's speech.

If, however, I'd been tipped the wink (in the narration) that the character was speaking nineteen to the dozen, that would have headed my subconscious off at the pass, so to speak.
 
From the US here; I didn't have much trouble with it except I've no clue ab't-Nine’ny-nine pee-but that could just be me.

I'm not a fan of trying to read unique characters with odd dialects so it would get old after a while (for me). I have some buddies though who insist on authors differentiating characters this way otherwise they think they all sound the same.

The big thing is if it sounds like it's natural; in that it doesn't create some pretension in the authors writing.

Though not being familiar with this dialect makes me very low on qualifications; this did seem to come off as somewhat natural dialogue to me.
 
agreed with tinkerdan about the trying to read literally written dialects. some passeges by Mark Twain were absolutely unreadable to me because he did it quite often. glad those days are gone! i think it would be perfectly fine to flat out state the accent, then use only one or two coloquialisms to support it. the average reader would get the message. most definitely do away with the apostrophes. if you must write a literal dialog, then i feel it would work better if phonetically written instead, and wouldn't cause one to slow down to try to understand as much.
but i think you already realiazed it well with "It may be an experiment that goes no further..."
 
Yep, I think it's back to my Ulster-lite, but I've had some good ideas about conveying the speed, without resorting to the pov character telling us about the speed! Thanks, all!
 
As an Irish person I read it exactly how you planned it to be said. Though I would understand other people perhaps not as they don't know how funny your accents are up North ;)
 
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