The use of dialect in novels

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.

Jiddy Vardy cover

 

 

 

Unheard Voices

A reader who has read Jiddy Vardy and who is reading Jiddy Vardy 2 – High Tide as a Beta-Reader, mentioned the use of dialect in my novels.

She said she’d never read a book like this where the voice comes so strong from their location – Yorkshire.

It set me thinking about voices. Publishers, everyone, in fact, is saying they want novels from little or unheard voices. But there are so few from the North of England. Why is this? Or are they and I haven’t heard of them? We’re saying young people need to see themselves in books and hear themselves….so are ALL young people really being represented?

I’ve heard northern voices in adult books. Andrew Michael Hurley’s and Ben Myers’ resonate with the North.

And I’m not talking dialect like Joseph’s in Wuthering Heights. Jiddy is a smattering of ‘were’ and dropped ‘the’s.’

I know people who speak like this but I don’t hear their voices in YA fiction.

We’re supposed to all be represented in books. So, let’s hear working class northern voices. Authentic voices from people of the north. Authentic working class voices from everywhere in the country perhaps?

Jiddy Vardy is historical fiction, set in Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire. Sixteen year olds can sound the same when they come from the same place whatever the century.

Why write historical fiction? Because sometimes, it is more palatable to see today’s troubles at a distance. And some things never change. By viewing them in another age, we may see our problems more clearly and see the choices that we could make. Jiddy Vardy explores why people commit a crime. Why they took up smuggling. Still relevant today with rising prices and taxation.

So, two points here! Historical fiction can speak volumes for today’s audience and Northern voices need to be heard!ROBIN HOOD'S BAY

 

International Talk like a Pirate Day – 19th September

International Talk like a Pirate Day

Ahoy Maties! It’s International Talk Like A Pirate Day!!! A paradic holiday created in 1995 by John Baur (Ol’ Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (Cap’n Slappy) of Albany, Oregan, USA. So, in the spirit of Pirates, Jiddy Vardy and I say, ‘Shiver me timbers, crack open the barrel of rum me hearties and swashbuckle through the day!’

The point of book reviews & the unexpected bonus of them…

 

BOOKS READ IN 2019 - Letting Go by Cat Clarke

The super kind Madge Eekal Reviews sent me this 73 page, dyslexia friendly YA book after I commented on her 5***** review of Letting Go by Cat Clarke. I’ve never met Madge Eekal and am bowled over by her generosity.

I read the slim book this morning.

Immediately, you fall in love with the main charcter, Agnes. You want her as a friend because you hear the honesty in her voice, the words fire off the page. You’re in her head and heart. She’s in love with Ellie, has been dumped by Ellie, is suffering from depression but keeps her promise to scatter Ellie’s mum’s ashes on a mountain. With Ellie…….and Ellie’s new boyfriend. What could possibly go wrong? Or right? It’s funny, gripping and just downright great. The F-word comes out a few times, from all the characters, and I couldn’t have put it better myself! A very short read but perfectly formed. Love the honesty of the writing, can’t stress that enough. This shows the importance of book reviews as I wouldn’t have read this book if it wasn’t for following Madge Eekal and reading yet another of her insightful reviews. Thank you. She even sent me a little card. Follow her! And have to say I want Madge as my friend too!

 

Talking Books at Music Festivals

This year, at The World Music Workshop Festival near Bungay, Suffolk, there was a new tent…the KIWI Lotus Tent that hosted talks, demonstrations and conversations.

I felt honoured to be part of this festival, not only by all the dancing I usually do, but by talking about Jiddy Vardy, sharing my experience of a writer, in where I find inspiration, the writing process, publishing process and then a full on discussion about books, films and life.

This is what literature is about. A spring board, a walk in another’s shoes, an opening up of life and a sharing of ideas.

Thank you WMWF, formerly known as Drum Camp! I have always loved this festival that has become to feel like home. Now I love you even more, if that’s possible!

Dancing and talking books combined. Fantastic. I will be back next year!

Ruth

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