What’s After Happening Now: Dialect and Operating Principles

Newfoundland Trip #24 - 'The Rock'

Ah, home sweet home. Don’t she look inviting? (Photo credit: dibytes)

I had an entirely new experience the other day: I read a screenplay.

Not just for my own amusement, though I did enjoy it. Kat Nicholson, a very talented friend of mine who blogs over here, had asked me to look over one of her screenplays for dialect. See, it is set on the east coast of Newfoundland, where I’m from, and that province has its own…distinctive accent.* Several of them, as a matter of fact. We mostly do it to confuse outsiders. It works very well.

Only a few of the characters, and none of the main ones, really have the strong form of the accent, but that’s enough. Kat knew that she wasn’t familiar enough with the dialect to reproduce it perfectly, so she made the smart decision: get someone who is familiar to check it for accuracy.** So I went through it and changed “where are you” to “where ye at” and so on. Even changed to curses to the pseudo-Catholic sacrilege that I grew up with. There weren’t many changes, and nothing that really affected the story at all, but they still make a difference. Especially if you run across any readers who know the area, or are from it. That’s when you’ll be happy you checked your sources.

You can do all the research you want, and sometimes that’s all you can do on a particular topic. But if you have the opportunity, get someone who knows what you’re talking about to check your facts, your turns of phrase, your basic operating principles. Otherwise you might have the embarrassing experience of being called out on that shit. Or you might just annoy your reader with an inaccurate depiction. Trust me, it happens. I’ve been seriously annoyed by it in the past. Everything from accents to basic physiology to omg that’s not how a goddamn gun works.


People make mistakes. I get it. But a smart person gets someone else to check their work so those mistakes don’t get further than they need to.

And now, if anyone gets pissed with Kat over her representation of the dialect, she can just point at me and say, “Her fault.”

*If you want to know how distinctive, check out this video from CBC’s The Hour. Slays me.
**The fact that I live across the street and can easily be bribed by butterscotch cookies is just a bonus.


Monday Challenge: Pushing Your Boundaries


Barrier doesn’t look so insurmountable from this angle, does it? (Photo credit: BinaryApe)

Boundaries are over-rated.

I’m not talking about that thing where your roommate keeps coming into your room and stealing your underwear while you sleep so she can sell it on Japanese fetish websites.* You should probably address that, maybe with a taser. I’m referring to the boundaries we place on our own skills and abilities.

For example:

“I only write fan-fiction.”

“I can’t write short stories.”

“Romance is beyond me.”**

God damn it, we’re writers, aren’t we? Which means we’re supposed to be fucking creative. When did it become the norm to put so many restraints on our creativity that we might as well be Fifty Shades of Grey cosplayers?*** We should be trying new stuff, moving things around, taking in all the new possibilities. But instead, we find a niche and stick to it. Steampunk. Character-driven slice-of-life screenplays. Robot erotica. That’s all.

That is fucking stifling.

And I’m as guilty of it as anyone. For a long time, I was strictly a fantasy novel writer. But then I started writing short stories. And horror. And superhero stuff. And science fiction. And, while I found that I fucked it up a fair bit at first, I still found that I liked it.

One of my goals this year is to branch out even further: I’m going to write a graphic novel script. And, hell, if I feel like it, I might even draw it. Because creativity needs to be prodded sometimes.

So this is my Monday Challenge to you: find something you’ve never written before. Then come up with a way you’d be interested in writing it.

Don’t like romance? How about the dating life of one of your characters? Hate horror? How about nightmares that can make cameos? Worried about short fiction? Try writing a stand alone scene, or an earlier moment in someone’s life. The point is to find a way around those boundaries.

It should be simple enough. After all, we were the ones that made them.

*People do this, as I discovered in residence.
**Talking about writing again. Your relationship problems are your own.
***Is this a thing? I don’t want it to be a thing. I’m afraid to check the internet to find out.