My novels about a female smuggler in 18th century Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire involve the use of dialect, not only in the dialogue, but also in the ‘narrator’s’ voice.
I have tried to give a ‘feel’ of this Yorkshire voice in the prose, through the use of ‘were’ instead of ‘was’ and dropping ‘the’ in various places.
Discussions have arisen from this during the critique session on a new Writers’ Course I am attending. All of these comments bar one come from reading the first 3,000 words of Jiddy Vardy – High Tide, the second book in the trilogy.
Some love it as it totally immerses them in 18th century Yorkshire.
Some would prefer it only used in the dialogue.
Some find it takes time to get used to it.
A German reader didn’t have a problem at all, even with words she didn’t understand. She got the sense from the context. Plus, as a non-YA reader, she wanted to read more and read the first book.
However, there are readers for and against…
Some quotes about the use of dialect in the dialogue and the prose:
‘They’re subtle yet really place the story firmly in Yorkshire.’
‘I actually really enjoyed the dialects and thought they worked well, I could get the feel of a working class conversation.’
‘The use of dialect and vernacular grammar works really in both the text and dialogue. It made me feel as though I was there and totally involved.’
‘I’ve never read anything like this in YA, with the dialect in the narration. Really felt part of the world. Though can see schools may have a problem with it.’
‘Written in dialect makes for difficult reading. Dialect is better implied if possible.’
‘I prefer dialect in the dialogue – in the direct speech – but not in the third person narrative.’
‘It would be very difficult as a parent to give this to my (12 year old) daughter to read and the use of ‘weren’t’ in the first lines would put me off purchasing this for her.’
Just as a pointer – Jiddy Vardy is aimed at 14+ – it is upper YA. Many YA readers are in their 20s.
I have thought that parents and schools may have a problem with the use of dialect in a YA book and teaching ‘bad’ habits. But isn’t the whole point of discussions at the moment about people seeing themselves in books? Well, what about HEARING themselves too? I want to hear the Yorkshire voice in books and not just as a parody and not just in the direct speech. As a teenager, I would have loved to hear myself as the voice behind the entire book. It would have made the idea of being a writer a real possibility for me.
Plus, it makes an excellent discussion in school workshops for the use of voice in a novel. Being heard. Being represented. I’m not talking about the characters, I’m talking about the narrative voice. Why can’t the narrator have a Yorkshire voice or any other regional voice for that matter? Why does it have to have any sense of place taken out of it? Or is it only certain narrative voices that are allowed to be heard?
If it hasn’t been done before, or rarely, why not break out of the box and change the voice that is telling the story? This is the story of Yorkshire after all.
It’s one series of books. Will this really tarnish a young person’s grammar? From my experience, it’s being in a school environment that does this, not reading a book.