• Published a book you want to tell us about? Uploaded a YouTube video you want to share?

    Normally you'll need 100 posts to self-promote, but with an upgraded membership you can do so with your first post.

    Find out more here: Become a Supporting Member

Restrictions on Your writing

Overread

All Hail Skaven!
Joined
Aug 22, 2007
Messages
3,776
Location
Hunting in the woods
Another consideration is that most books don't write in pure local dialects and instead tend to err closer toward a either describing the accent and then having some elements of it in the text; or they use a lighter form of the text similar to what you'd get on a TV show. Otherwise you can wind up in a situation like this:


Where you then need correct grammar from another character to translate what was said. Writing is all about communication and there are many times one has to forgo accurate representation to ensure that your readers can understand what is written without having to leave the book to find some means of translation.
In the end its the communication to as wide an audience as possible which is where we find the nessessity to use the "rules" and grammar and such. It's all there to help.
 

Cathbad

Level 30 Geek Master
Joined
Dec 9, 2015
Messages
9,050
Location
Everywhere.
Most regional dialects aren't as bad as that, @Overread :LOL: at least not in the USA. What words/phrases that are used, though, should be phonetically correct, and easy to decipher.

I think a fictional story, using all the 'rules' and no 'flavoring' (such as regional dialect, odd cuss words) can mean some rather dry reading - though not necessarily.
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
Joined
Oct 5, 2011
Messages
17,057
Location
blah - flags. So many flags.
Most regional dialects aren't as bad as that, @Overread :LOL: at least not in the USA. What words/phrases that are used, though, should be phonetically correct, and easy to decipher.

I think a fictional story, using all the 'rules' and no 'flavoring' (such as regional dialect, odd cuss words) can mean some rather dry reading - though not necessarily.
I'm writing a quare accent in my new one (link at the end) and it's impossible for me to really convey it in the book. But I use the words of the region (like quare, or wee, or kicking, or whatever) pretty accurately and hope the context is clear.

 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
4,538
My thoughts in no real order:

1) The rules are generally there for a good reason, but they're less "rules" than "strongly advised guidelines", and some people interpret them wrongly or over-zealously.

2) For most people, myself included, the chances of writing something good are greater if you follow the rules rather than ignoring them.

3) Breaking the rules is probably more effective where the break is clearly visible and will have greater effect. Some breakings of the rules, such as not using quotation marks to report speech, have no real effect apart to mark the book out as "fancy" and make it harder to read.

4) I think the whole discussion risks falsely equating either following the rules or not following them with not being "proper" writing, which is probably another way of saying Orwell's last rule for writing: "Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous".
 

Cathbad

Level 30 Geek Master
Joined
Dec 9, 2015
Messages
9,050
Location
Everywhere.
I'm writing a quare accent in my new one (link at the end) and it's impossible for me to really convey it in the book. But I use the words of the region (like quare, or wee, or kicking, or whatever) pretty accurately and hope the context is clear.

Reminds me of watching Benny Hill years ago. My oriental wife (who had learned 'British English' in school) would have to translate his fast-spoken monologues for me!
 

Cathbad

Level 30 Geek Master
Joined
Dec 9, 2015
Messages
9,050
Location
Everywhere.
My thoughts in no real order:

1) The rules are generally there for a good reason, but they're less "rules" than "strongly advised guidelines", and some people interpret them wrongly or over-zealously.

2) For most people, myself included, the chances of writing something good are greater if you follow the rules rather than ignoring them.

3) Breaking the rules is probably more effective where the break is clearly visible and will have greater effect. Some breakings of the rules, such as not using quotation marks to report speech, have no real effect apart to mark the book out as "fancy" and make it harder to read.

4) I think the whole discussion risks falsely equating either following the rules or not following them with not being "proper" writing, which is probably another way of saying Orwell's last rule for writing: "Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous".
I agree completely with #1 through #3, but #4 I agree with, too.

;)
 

MikeAnderson

Emperor Xenu's Life Coach
Joined
May 15, 2019
Messages
79
Location
Reanimating Richard Nixon
Most regional dialects aren't as bad as that, @Overread :LOL: at least not in the USA. What words/phrases that are used, though, should be phonetically correct, and easy to decipher.

I think a fictional story, using all the 'rules' and no 'flavoring' (such as regional dialect, odd cuss words) can mean some rather dry reading - though not necessarily.
:LOL:Have you ever been to Mississippi, Cath? They are that bad.
 

sknox

Member and remember
Joined
Mar 25, 2013
Messages
934
Location
Idaho
There's a good point raised here: it's not just the accent, it's the words. An accent can be rendered phonetically (well or poorly), but certain words and phrases are region-specific. Put in too many of those and you start to lose the reader. This applies to made-up dialects as well. Used judiciously, it's a great way to make your dwarf or blue sprite appear exotic, or at least distinctive. The trick lies in that adverb, and what is fun or interesting to one reader can be just plain dumb for another.

The only guideline I can offer comes from my own reading experience. That dialect word once probably needs explanation or context to make its meaning clear. It ought to appear at least a couple more times in the novel, otherwise why was it there in the first place? But if it appears twice every chapter (exaggeration), then the author's gone too far. And there's probably some sort of maximum on dialect words (now I think of it, the same probably applies to tech language). Hundreds of them in a novel will be unbearable. Two is probably insufficient. There: aim for the middle. :)

IMO, The Expanse does a pretty good job along these lines. So does Patrick O'Brian in his sea-going novels, though sometimes it does get a bit thick.
 

Overread

All Hail Skaven!
Joined
Aug 22, 2007
Messages
3,776
Location
Hunting in the woods
@sknox I agree regarding words appearing more than once. I've read a good few books where the author tends to drop in an advanced word now and then but they are random. They appear more as a desire to just sound more learned as a writer, but because the word only appears once or twice its out of sync with their actual writing voice.

I think words appearing more and more, esp in-world" lingo is a very positive thing. So long as it slips naturally into the narrative and the author isn't highlighting them every time as if to make them sound special. So long as the reader gets it they are fine.
 

Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Princess
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2004
Messages
13,668
Location
California
Fortunately (for those of us who live here), thanks to widespread distribution of Hollywood movies and television show, just about everyone understands Californians.


(Well ... they understand what we are saying, but they don't always understand who we are. We are as vulnerable to stereotyping as anyone else.)
 

Steve Harrison

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
255
Location
Sydney, Australia
Fortunately (for those of us who live here), thanks to widespread distribution of Hollywood movies and television show, just about everyone understands Californians.

(Well ... they understand what we are saying, but they don't always understand who we are. We are as vulnerable to stereotyping as anyone else.)
I learned all I know about your state from the Saturday Night Live 'The Californians' sketches.:)
 

Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Princess
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2004
Messages
13,668
Location
California
Ouch. SNL is filmed in New York, and I wouldn't trust those New Yorkers any farther than I could throw them (having learned all about them from cop shows and sitcoms.)
 

Steve Harrison

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
255
Location
Sydney, Australia
I've been to LA several times, so I could appreciate the preoccupation with driving routes! But I know how you feel. I grew up in England and have lived in Australia for several decades, and I cringe when I see completely inaccurate outside depictions of both countries and people.

And just on language and accents, I don't know if it's common elsewhere, but whenever I watch any British or US news stories filmed in Australia, the Aussie accent seems much more broad than it does here in 'real life.' It makes me wonder if that is how people overseas hear Australians and why non-Aussie actors always seem over the top when they attempt the accent.

I'm not sure where my accent fits. When in England people think I'm an Aussie and people here still seem to think I've just stepped of the boat from Blighty.
 

Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Princess
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2004
Messages
13,668
Location
California
And in British TV shows and films American and Canadian characters are almost always overly hearty. In books they tend toward midwest or east coast slang. It is funny to see a character who is supposed to be, say, a Hollywood director, or an Arizona rancher, speaking like he comes from Chicago, Brooklyn, or the Bronx. But then sometimes the effect is supposed to be funny, so at least it succeeds in that.
 

aftonrhodes

Author
Joined
Aug 19, 2011
Messages
17
Location
England, United Kingdom
I find myself getting hung up with creative writing rules - and as a result, spend much longer "trying" to write than actually writing.

The advice I was given from a friend was to just ignore the mistakes whilst writing and handle them during editing. Sure it takes longer to edit, but I spent 15 years re-writing the first few chapters on a loop because of trying to write and edit at the same time.

The other thing to consider of course is that rules are subjective. If you're going for traditional publishing, they may be more important - but for self-publishing, you don't have to be as stringent.

As others have said, open other famous books and take a look. You'll find Tolkien using plenty of semi-colons, adverbs and stating the obvious dialogue tags. Same goes for JKR.
 
Top