W. Jordan's picture
W. Jordan from somewhere in Texas is reading The Shining by Stephen King September 5, 2012 - 12:59am

I need some thoughts on this, examples, please! An example that I'm not sure I'm writing correctly is: When I look back on my younger years, I wish I'd had a clue. I'm not sure about the underlined example.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books September 5, 2012 - 1:19am

If it's dialogue, I think it's fine. If that's in a first person narrative, then I wouldn't write it that way.  "I wish I had a clue" "I wish I'd have had a clue" are other ways to say it which (I think) are clearer, though.

M.E.Prince's picture
M.E.Prince from Georgia is reading En man som heter Ove September 5, 2012 - 2:15am

I don't know, Sparrow. I think 'I wish I'd had' is grammatically correct as it is, and I'm pretty sure 'I wish I had' and 'I wish I'd have had' aren't, at least in this case. To me, it reads clearly enough.

If it's dialogue, the important thing to keep in mind is the way the character speaks. If he'd say it like that, then that's how it is. I usually read dialogue out loud, or imagine someone I know who uses the target dialect saying the line.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK September 5, 2012 - 2:22am

If you're writing first person narrative then why not write like that? I do. If the character speaks like that, it stands to reason that they think like that. You think how you speak, right? So do the same for your character. People don't think in perfect tense, with correct grammar, etc.

You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.

- Chuch Palahniuk, Fight Club

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated September 5, 2012 - 4:39am

Most people I know don't write how they speak.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. September 5, 2012 - 9:47am

In the narrative, I try to skip the accents.  I contain them mostly to dialogue.  It's one of those things that a really great writer can pull off that I can't (yet).  In my work, I think "They can talk incorrectly, but they can't explain things with the wrong words while showing setting, characters, and action, or else the reader might misread it."

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like September 5, 2012 - 9:56am

"I'd" can be either "I had" or "I would," right? "I'd had" must be "I had had" because "I would had" doesn't make sense; it'd've'd to be either "I would have" or "I would have had"

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. September 5, 2012 - 10:13am

"I wish I would've had a clue" sounds right to me.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK September 5, 2012 - 11:11am

Or you could invert it, like: "I didn't have a clue. I wish I had."

Anyway, if you're writing someone's thoughts then that is writing how they think, not how they write. Look to the masters, for they will bring inspiration.

I think by the time you're grown you're as happy as you're goin to be. You'll have good times and bad times, but in the end you'll be about as happy as you was before. Or as unhappy. I've knowed people that just never did get the hang of it.

- Cormac McCarthy, No Country For Old Men

Stacy Kear's picture
Stacy Kear from Bucyrus, Ohio lives in New Jersey is reading The Art of War September 5, 2012 - 1:28pm

I stupidly tried writing a first person narrative with a guy from Arkansas. Incredibly difficult to write accents, I agree with Howie, unless you are very talented it's hard to pull off. Nobody wants to read a narrative with every 'g' dropped to attain a southern accent, even though that is the way some people talk. I am rewriting my book and having improper syntax and word choice convey an "accent".

I will also mention that there isn't much help on the Internet or in books about the correct way to write accents. You can find a book that has achieved it, like Trainspotting, and try to mimic it, but again it's not easy to do well. You also have to take in mind the time period it's written, if I were to mimic "Huckleberry Finn" for example, it would read ridiculous in a modern setting. 

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters September 5, 2012 - 1:37pm

If you are not from the area, I find it helpful to ask someone fromt hat area to proof it for you.  They can tell you if you've fucked it up.

 

 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK September 5, 2012 - 1:54pm

That's a good point Averydoll. I do that a lot, get women I know to read dialogue or POV narrative if I'm writing from a woman's perspective, etc., and the same applies to dialect. It's tricky but fun. I love changing into a new character, discovering their voice, their thoughts, their little speech patterns and mannerisms. I find it engrosses the reader, if you write how the character would think you can create so much depth in almost any sentence - hidden between the lines are motivations, insecurities, supressed childhood memories. Become the character, know them, live them, then you can write as them. Just make sure you are consistent and you get it right! I'm from England, I've read some terrible attempts at English dialogue, normally from American authors (no offense!). However read Ian Fleming - his American speech, particularly in Live and Let Die, is very stereotypical. When it is mastered it can set the mood perfectly, if there is the slightest inconsistence it all falls apart. I see it as a challenge, and I enjoy it, but it's not for everyone. That's my opinion, anyway.

Good luck W.Jordan, hope you figure it out. I think looking at your sentence I would reword it to say something like this:

When I look back on my younger years I never had a clue. Wish I did, but I didn't.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters September 5, 2012 - 2:39pm

"When I look back on my younger years I never had a clue. Wish I did, but I didn't."

I think that is how Holden Caulfield would have said it.

 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. September 5, 2012 - 3:56pm

There should be a comma after years, I think.  I'd write it: Fuck, I used to be even dumber than this.

W. Jordan's picture
W. Jordan from somewhere in Texas is reading The Shining by Stephen King September 5, 2012 - 4:05pm

I appreciate everyone's insights. Thanks! 

 

W. Jordan

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books September 5, 2012 - 4:22pm

Fuck, I used to be even dumber than this.

Like a goddamned idiot.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters September 5, 2012 - 4:24pm

Sometimes I look back on my younger years, like a god damn idiot.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books September 5, 2012 - 4:25pm

There it is.

 

W. Jordan's picture
W. Jordan from somewhere in Texas is reading The Shining by Stephen King September 5, 2012 - 4:28pm

Damn, all this talk about "younger years" is going to spark a novel out of one of you! Check out another post of mine in the Community: What ages would you consider "young adult?" Another question, what do you all consider "new" classics, if that's a way to put it?

Wildman666's picture
Wildman666 from Kentucky is reading Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds September 5, 2012 - 5:55pm

I'm assuming by "folky" you mean relatively southern-ish. If not, then you can ignore this.

I don't think southern dialect is something that people who aren't from the south can ever completely understand. In school I always got annoyed by folky books that were written by people who weren't from a place like that because it just sounds artifical or patronizing. It's a lot more than just saying "ain't" a lot and dropping all your Gs and shit like that. A lot of stuff that I can't really pinpoint or explain.

People use a lot of words and phrases that you won't find written down anywhere and pronounce almost everything in a different way. For instance, if it has an e sound, they probably make it an a sound.

When someone (male) is leaving your house or whatever, you say "we see ye bub"

In high school I would always talk in a super exaggerated redneck way when I joked around because it made everything funny and I guess I thought it was ironic or whatever, but it was funny because that was really the way everyone spoke. Whenever I'd chat with friends online and someone had to go, at some point we started saying "WSYB".

Then the person who is leaving, they say "yall come home with us."

Whether you're saying "you're" or "you've" you just say "you."

you gonna shoot yourself in the foot you don't quit playing with that gun (also note that I didnt say IF you don't)

you got a pot plant growin' in your bathtub.

 

A lot of times nobody talks in complete sentences. Then a lot of times they can be really clusterfucky and redundant. It's just kind of an innate thing you pick up on I guess.

...yeah. I'm from a super rural area. haha. Like 600 people, two trailer parks, and a coal mine. A lot of the older people in my family never finished high school (or elementary school in some cases). Some of them can't read. People there aren't really stupid by any means. They just have this kind of isolated language. Like Louisiana or some shit, I'd imagine.

If that sounds extreme, that's really the sad truth of it. Even stuff that is exaggerated in literature is almost always more grammatically correct than the reality of it in some places. I don't think you could realistically write a story that way, though. I don't know. You probably don't even want the folky part to be that intense. Just thought I'd give you some insight.

To answer your question, though, I think that sentence sounds too long/complex. The way bryanhowie said it sounds pretty accurate.

I'd write it: Fuck, I used to be even dumber than this.

But people in the south don't really say "fuck" a lot. So maybe "Shit, I used to be even dumber than this."

 

Hope that helps. I can't help you with your last questions because I have no idea.

W. Jordan's picture
W. Jordan from somewhere in Texas is reading The Shining by Stephen King September 5, 2012 - 6:55pm

Thanks, Wildman666!

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters September 5, 2012 - 7:39pm

"But people in the south don't really say "fuck" a lot. "

This has not been my experience.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated September 6, 2012 - 8:09am

I'm not sure how much of reading a outsider do a horrible accent is it really seeming horrible, and how much of it is them coming across like a jerk who looks down on people. One trick I've seen Steven King do which I liked (not what he does most times, but I've seen it) is the first time someone who isn't used to accent hears it or such it is written down phonetically and after the person asks them to repeat it is written as normal English. Works as a plot device to show that the speaker has a accent without the whole pages and pages of the author's version of what that accent should be written as.

@Wildman - You are a horrible person, you said something that makes me agree with Avery. I hate to admit it, but she's right I've heard tons of the f bomb. Just depends on which circle of people you are around. 

Otherwise you're mostly right about the sentences/accent. I had to read the quote below twice to figure out why it would need the word if.

you gonna shoot yourself in the foot you don't quit playing with that gun (also note that I didnt say IF you don't)

Also there is not 'southern' accent despite what outsiders might think. Texas sounds different from Louisiana, and both sound different from Kentucky. Honestly, even that isn't correct because the far western Kentucky accent is a bit different from the far eastern Kentucky one. I'd assume that is true of TX. and LA. too, but I don't know it for a fact. And I've noticed that the g doesn't get dropped from the end of sentences most times.

"I'm goin' home."

"I'm going."

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like September 6, 2012 - 8:56am

Also there is not 'southern' accent despite what outsiders might think. Texas sounds different from Louisiana, and both sound different from Kentucky. Honestly, even that isn't correct because the far western Kentucky accent is a bit different from the far eastern Kentucky one. I'd assume that is true of TX. and LA. too, but I don't know it for a fact. And I've noticed that the g doesn't get dropped from the end of sentences most times.

It's like British accents: there are different varieties, but they are all British [or Southern.] So someone could say "He has a southern accent," and they'd be right whether the accent is from Georgia or Tennessee.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK September 6, 2012 - 9:01am

J.Y., sorry to correct you but there is no such thing as a British accent - there's English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish, and within those there are vast differences depending on the area, as much variation as across the entire US. You'd say "He has an English accent" in the same way that we'd say "He has an American accent". A Southern American accent is like a Southern English accent, different from the mid-country and the North in a general sense, then within it there are individual dialects. So you can say southern accent in terms of several states in the US, same as people ask me if I'm from London. I'm not, but I live in the South East, so the accent has similarities.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like September 6, 2012 - 9:10am

By "British accent" I don't mean "a single universally recognized British accent", but rather "an accent from Britain."

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated September 6, 2012 - 9:19am

Well yeah. Someone can have a dog, that doesn't mean there is one dog. And people speak of the various groups of accents like there is only one, something they don't do with most things there are a large group of.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. September 6, 2012 - 9:23am

The most frustrating thing I've noticed in colloquial speaking is the use of made up words.  I hear "if'n" a lot (a combination of "If and", but I also hear things like "Not'n" or "Not 'en", which should be "Not and", but it just means "not" (rhymes with cotton).  Not'n isn't a word.

That'n doesn't mean "that and" most of the time.  It means "That one", or it just means 'that'.

What'n just means 'what'.  "What'n one you talking about?  The blonde?"

On the other hand, finding the phrases that people use that I've never heard is a great thrill.  I love finding those.  One of my favorites is, if a guy is all confused and angry about it, people say "He's all sulled up."  

Also, the use of "directly" around here (as in "I'll do it directly") actually means "I'll do it when I get around to it."  If someone says they'll do it directly, it could happen in five minutes or five weeks.  It's a tricky one.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated September 6, 2012 - 9:59am

I've always heard directly meaning soon. Of course soon can mean 5 minuites or 5 weeks depending on context, so maybe without delay would be more correct?

Mckay Williams's picture
Mckay Williams from Oakland, California is reading slowly... September 6, 2012 - 10:30am

I hate when I'm late to threads I really want to participate in. Most of my points have already been made. The biggest thing I'd like to really hammer home is that regional dialect is way more specific than things a blanket statement like Southern, or Mid-Western. More than the dropping or drawing of constants and vowels to make the sound, think of local colloquialisms and behaviors.

A GREAT example of this is The Wire. Listen to how the dialouge is uniquely Baltimore, without being focused on that Bawlmare kind of sound. 

The other method is the Irvine Welsh phonetic dialect, which is hard as hell to pull off. I wrote a Bostonian one once over at the old workshop and the reaction was either "Great, totally got it" or "This is absoultely awful." 

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day September 6, 2012 - 5:00pm

I could never get into Irvine Welsh. I'm sure he's great and all, I'm just unable to process the accent(s). 

I've been criticized for throwing colloquialisms/foreign words/regional dialects into my writing. I say, if it only happens once per page, stop being a lazy reader and look it up online. You will learn new words and expressions. They may never be useful to you personally, but what else are you doing on the internet?

Mckay Williams's picture
Mckay Williams from Oakland, California is reading slowly... September 6, 2012 - 5:54pm

I think, and totally subjectively, that the most important part of a story is character. Location is just another character when done well. If you can sell that character's emotional resonance with dialoge that rings true, that's a beautiful thing. 

drea's picture
drea from Rural Alberta, Canada is reading between the lines September 6, 2012 - 9:17pm

Read Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. 

 

Amen. 

W. Jordan's picture
W. Jordan from somewhere in Texas is reading The Shining by Stephen King September 6, 2012 - 11:49pm

I think I should have been a little bit clearer on what I really meant on this discussion question. The character isn’t a southerner really, more that he just kind of said that little bit that made him sound like he’d be southern. It’s actually just something he says to another person in one line of dialogue. I guess this changes everything. What do you all think?

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK September 7, 2012 - 1:42am

I'd say restructure the sentence. Imagine you said it to someone, what would you actually say?

Looking back, I didn't have a clue when I was younger. I think about it, think through the situation, and wish some part of me would have the sense to do what is right. I 'm shouting at my past self, screaming in his face, begging him to think, but he never listens.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated September 7, 2012 - 3:08pm

Well it depends on who he really is.

A uneducated working stiff talking to his brother after a few beers might be, "Man, when I look back on being young, I really wish I'd had a clue back then. I wasted a lot years, you know?"

A educated guy man starting to get older talking to a coworker might be more, "When I look back on my younger years, I wish I'd had some clue."