RE: RARA-AVIS: Language

Date: 24 Mar 2005

<<<Simply put, authentic tape recorder dialogue is unreadable - what Higgins and Leonard did was to take the vernacular and impose rhythm and sense and even a cerain poetry on to it, and that does indeed involve strategic rather then authentically profuse use of, er, Anglo-Saxon oaths.>>>

I got into a discussion with this not too long ago with another writer. It was more over phonetic dialogue than swearing, but the same arguments pro and con apply here.

I lamented that Mosely's one flaw with DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS was his use of "the Scotty trick," so named because of the bad habit STAR TREK novelists (usually not paragons of good writing to begin with) tended to write the original series' chief engineer phonetically, in one case ending up with a badly rendered Yorkshire accent. (It sounded even worse once I realized what the author'd mistaken for Aberdeen Scottish.) Mosely has slapped so many apostrophes into DEVIL's dialogue that I often had to reread Easy's lines to make sure I got it right.

The gentleman I happened to be talking with said he preferred that, but the trick is to get it to flow. Striking a balance between readability and authenticity was the trick. I did agree that the dialogue in THE RED DEATH was much more readable, but, as often is the case when Texas accents are written (the most recent James Hime novel an example), writers tend to be too phonetic and lose the reader, or at least give him pause.

The same point can be made about swearing. Your average street thug has trouble stringing two sentences together into a coherent piece of conversation. (This was a staple of screwball comedy whenever gangsters were involved in the plot. "I gotta preposition for yas.") A writer has to depict this, but the reader has to be able to read through the lines with little or no effort at all. Too many F bombs can have the same effect as heavy handed phonetics.

Jim Winter

Northcoast Shakedown

------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor --------------------~--> Has someone you know been affected by illness or disease? Network for Good is THE place to support health awareness efforts!

RARA-AVIS home page:
  Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 24 Mar 2005 EST