I had gotten roped into reading a couple of chapters of an acquaintance’s manuscript last month, a mystery that tripped over one of my pet peeves.
It was swimming in dialect. The main character had some ill-defined role as an investigator (separate problem) and was in a feud with the story’s antagonist, whose main outward sign of evil was being overweight (separate problem). And he was Irish.
Jaysus and begorrah! I’ll be having nightmares of bad Irish dialect for months, I will. A sentence similar to that was used at least three times on every page.
No, I’m not exaggerating. And this hit home for me because I’m in the final throes of revising a novel, three of whose major characters are Irish or English. And the previous manuscript featured some of my favorite characters, twin mermen from Cut-Off, Louisiana. I spent many, many years in Southeast Louisiana, listening to people make fun of how writers tried to do dialect, chere.
How does a writer convey dialect, whether it’s South Louisiana Cajun or Irish vampire, without going down Huck Finn Lane?
I think the vocabulary word for today is “SPARINGLY.” Throw in a phrase every once in a while, have another character note the accent, and try-try-try not to overdo it.
Unless, of course, an editor says: “I like this, but your character needs more dialect.” Jaysus and begorrah! Then I’ll be all over it.