Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Dialogue - Pandora's Box

Conversations and Body language

I’ve just completed the self-paced online course ‘Fiction Essentials: Dialogue’ developed by the Australian Writers’ Centre. I’ve found it really helpful.

I was worried about my characters being a bit flat and I think that I’ve now gained a better and more explicit understanding of how characters come to life through dialogue. The course provides a good checklist to review what I’ve written in the rough draft of my third children’s book.

Because it’s the third book of the trilogy about the magic game ‘The Tenth Gateway’ I want to ensure that the characters continue to be of interest and that the main ones have developed over the course of the story. In particular I want to check my use of ‘paralanguage’; for example, facial expressions and body language. Reviewing my use of speech tags in this context will also be important.

Slang and Idioms

I try not to use too much slang in the dialogue but I include a bit here and there because it’s how we speak. I looked up some common contemporary English slang and a lot of the words are already out of date.

“Cool’ still seems to be in fashion, ‘yucky’ still describes something unpleasant – not ‘sick’ which now means really nice, terrific, great!. And ‘wicked’ now means something really good (rather than bad). Of course I’m also trying to keep up with words for technology.

This led me to think about idioms. They’re lots of fun as well although I’m not sure if I can use them in my book Some of the ones I like include:
·      A bigwig
·      Cheek by jowl
·      To get cold feet
·      A load of old codswallop
·      To get someone’s goat
·      To over egg the pudding

My book ‘the dictionary of idioms and their origins’ includes hundreds of sayings.

The English Language – a mystery

One of my characters – Edward –is a child from the nineteenth century. Do I have him talking 21st century style or do I try to make him sound a bit old fashioned. In Melvyn Bragg’s book ‘The Adventure of English’ he writes: “In the nineteenth century at least eight hundred and fifty six different grammars of English marched into print.”

I think I’ll just use a few words here and there.

So the issue of dialogue opens up ‘a can of worms' !!! What do you think?

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