Friday, March 16, 2007

Dialogue K

The man staggered back, hand pressed to his rapidly blackening eye. "What the hell was that for?" he slurred.

"Ye're Douglas [lastname], aye?"


"Then be glad I dinna do more. It's only that she's chosen you that stays my hand. Take care of her, aye, and see ye do her nay harm, or by God and all that is Holy—"

"Wait." [lastname] held up an unsteady hand. "Take care of who?"

"Elspeth," he said. "My wife."

With the perfect focus occasionally allowed drunk persons, [lastname] studied Alec's face and proclaimed, "You are Scottish."

"Aye, and how has that to do with anythin'?"

tilted his head and frowned. "Are you…Alec?"

"So my friends call me." Emphasis was placed on the word friends. "I am Alasdair Colin MacGreg—oof!" His words were cut off as [lastname]'s fist impacted his midsection, causing him to release his hold. [His hold on what?] This one was remarkably fast for a drunk man.

"You're supposed to be dead!" [lastname] backed away, shaking his head and dropping his voice. "She told me you were dead." [Thus I am justified in punching you in the gut.]


The dialogue is fine. Not sure about the POV. This one was remarkably fast for a drunk man is clearly Alec's POV. Whether Alec should be able to declare that Douglas has perfect focus is questionable. Also, try to think of an actual last name for [lastname], as it gets annoying this way.


whitemouse said...

I got really confused trying to sort out who was talking to whom. Maybe once the [lastname]s are replaced with a real name, that would help me out.

Once I did figure it out, however, I thought the scene worked. It gets particularly interesting when Douglas says Elspeth told him Alec was dead, but the fight and dialogue have enough tension to keep the reader engaged up to that point. I think this structure works, drawing the reader into the story in stages.

JRC said...

EE: I have been trying to come up with [lastname]'s last name, but nothing's stuck yet. He'll definitely have one eventually, though. And thanks for catching the POV slip.

whitemouse: Thanks! This is really in medias res, both within the scene and within the story. Suffice it to say that Alec's mad because he went to find Elspeth (who does believe him dead) only to see Doug - her former flame/ex-fiance - kissing her. Doug's mad because after he kissed Elspeth, she rejected him, saying that she loved Alec and wouldn't betray his memory, and had no feelings left for Doug. (Alec, of course, had already stormed off and missed that part.)

writtenwyrdd said...

I agree that the speakers' identies weren't clear. Otherwise, what a scene! Introducing a critical plot complication like this would have me reading more.

Anonymous said...

If you are subjecting others to your work, and they are reading out of the supposed kindness of their hearts, you should just pick a name, any name and swap it for [lastname.] It really is annoying.

McKoala said...

OK, hate me if you like, but as a Scot the dialect didn't work for me. I'm not going to get all pedantic about where your Scot is from though, because that's just painful.

Having said that, it's rare to find 'aye' at the end of a question, or in the middle of a sentence (unless you are using it in the meaning of 'always'). That made me feel that you were throwing the word about to make the dialogue sound Scottish. You could try 'Ye're Douglas, aren't ye?' Watch out for ye vs you; some Scots would use both, generally using 'you' where the word is stressed. Usually 'nay' would be spelt 'nae', but that's probably just convention. 'How has that to do with anythin?' jumped out at me too; 'What has that to do with anythin'' or 'What has that tae do wi' anythin'?' even.

Now you're going to tell me that you're Scottish and these things all happen in your dialect...but that would surprise me.

Anonymous said...

This was confusing as I couldn't figure out who was talking to whom, and the POV flip flops. I agree with McKoala. The biggest problem is the dialect. When I see really bad Scottish dialect like this, it makes me wonder if this writer is trying to write the next Outlander in the form of fan fic.

JRC said...

Thanks to those who left positive (whitemouse and writtenwyrdd) - or at least constructive (McKoala) - comments.

Apparently the concept of a "rough draft" is hard for others to grasp. Sorry if I don't have one of the character's names picked out yet, or if I haven't worked out exactly how to write the Scottish dialect. That's why it's called a "work in progress". Tellingly, the negative/nonconstructive types were the ones to comment anonymously. Go figure.

I do appreciate your help, McKoala. Since I am (obviously, alas) not Scottish I am trying to figure out the dialect. Right now I'm going on what examples of dialect I can find in other books, mostly fiction, and admittedly a lot of them aren't great. (I need to spend more time in my copies of Scott and Stevenson...) I will take your comments into account for this scene and in the future.

McKoala said...

Glad I helped a bit. Are there a lot of Scottish speakers? If there aren't many then fudging it a bit is a fine approach! I'd say that there is no one way to spell out Scottish dialect, because there are so many different ones. I'm not a big fan of how Diana Gabaldon approached it - everyone speaks in the same way - but on the other hand her restrained use of dialect only on certain words gives readers a Scottish flavour without making her dialect incomprehensible. For example, she uses 'dinna' pretty much without fail for 'do not'. But anyone from the West Coast would be more likely to say 'dinnae'. But I think she's found a happyish medium that works for her readers. Having said that, purists hate her.

Read any Irvine Welsh?! Now that's incomprehensible!