Writing Dialogue isn’t Easy

Writing Dialogue isn’t Easy. Please check out the referenced posting from Francis Guenette on her blog: “disappearing in plain sight – writing about writing”. I’ve also added the following comment with reference to the difficulty of writing dialogue.

Thanks for this post. It’s very true that writing dialogue isn’t easy. The particular “problem” I’ve encountered in writing dialogue in both my novel: “Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie” and my autobiography: “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” was writing in the Scottish vernacular, as both books were set in Scotland (the latter partially so).

My editor, who is not Scottish-born, had quite a workout learning the spelling and nuances of my attempt to record written Scots-English. In fact, one computer program sent us the message that there were so many errors in spelling that we could not use the spell-check!!! In the novel, which uses the vehicle of time travel, I also had to try to convey that the Scottish persons my 21st Century heroes encountered when they found themselves somehow transported back to the 12th Century spoke in the Gaelic but the heroes, who didn’t speak or understand Gaelic, heard it as Scots-English and vice-versa. I chose to show the Gaelic, not by using that language, but by eliminating all contractions from their speech and using old-fashioned words or sentence structure whenever possible.

One reviewer remarked that he found the dialogue stilted and old-fashioned at times, not recognizing why I chose to use the differing speech patterns. On the other hand, another reviewer remarked that the dialogue read realistically for the most part and added, “Character personalities come through well in their speech, and you’ve managed to suggest the Scottish ‘lilt’ without overdoing it. I don’t know how you do it, but there’s a cadence to some of the speech that just seems to work. Very nice.” I can only conclude that some reviewers “get it” and others don’t. That probably goes for general readers as well. I now realize I should have addressed the difference in speech patterns in a preface to the book.

Having learned my lesson, I noted in the preface to my autobiography: “The reader will notice that I’ve used the Scottish vernacular when Scots are speaking amongst themselves and normal English when they are speaking with non-Scots. That reflects my own speaking pattern. When among Scots, my speech becomes increasingly ‘Scottish-sounding.’ For example, ‘Ah’ (I); ‘tae’ (to); ‘ye’ (you); ‘no’ (not); ‘canna’ (cannot);’ ‘oor’ (our); ‘widna’ (would not); ‘aboot’ (about); ‘aye’ (yes), etc. I’ve also used British words for the period before I emigrated from Scotland (such as ‘lorry,’ ‘chap,’ ‘bloke,’ and ‘cheerio’); and changed them to North American words sometime after I immigrated to Canada (such as ‘truck,’ and ‘guy’). My editor and I had a disagreement about allowing ‘Scottishisms’ (as she calls them) into my narrative. I insisted on leaving them in, however, for that’s how we (Scots) speak. Thus you’ll find the occasional sentence such as ‘So, there’s me, the great boatbuilder.’ instead of her ‘cleaned up’ version, ‘So, there I was, the great boatbulder.”

Editor’s Review of “Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie” in Goodreads

This posting is being done by Gayle Moore-Morrans, Ian’s wife, editor, publicist, etc. as Ian is hospitalized at present and waiting for an Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiogram and Pancreatogram, better known as an ERCP. Tests have indicated a possible blockage or stones in a liver duct and this ERCP should be able to extract the stones or insert stents to clear the blockage. Yesterday he was in good form, joking and visiting with his roommates and also selling copies of his books to hospital staff and visitors. Today he was not feeling as well and actually fell asleep as I was visiting. At least he’s getting a rest.

Since I’m the one who has developed this blog for Ian and do most of the manual labour to put this on the website, I’ll take the opportunity of his absence to post the review of his novel that I recently entered on Goodreads, a great site for readers. I recommend it to anyone interested in reading and passing along or getting book recommendations. I’ve found it a great way to connect with the world’s largest community of readers.

*****Review of “Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie” by Ian Moore-Morrans. Posted by Gayle Moore-Morrans on Goodreads.

*****A tale of adventure, time travel, fantasy, historical fiction and romance set in the Scottish Highlands. As I’m married to the author and have edited the book myself, perhaps I’m a bit prejudiced. However, I don’t think you’ll find a better read that will take you from the 21st Century back to the 12th Century when Vikings were invading the Scottish Highlands. The author grew up and lived in Scotland, in some of the area of which he writes. Geography buffs will enjoy his knowledge of the highland area from Inverness south to Argyll. Historical fiction buffs will enjoy his depictions of 12th Century Scots and Vikings. Fantasy buffs will relate to his turning the historical claim by “witnesses” (to have seen a ghostly conflict taking place over the years around the first of May at Loch Ashie near Inverness) into a tale of two brothers from Edinburgh traveling to that lake and attempting to witness the battle for themselves. Adventure enthusiasts will thrill to the battles, intrigues, trials, discoveries and voyages the brothers endure. Fans of the supernatural will relish the character of “Ancient One” or “Aeoh” as the brothers call him – a wizard-like being with both good and evil powers which he uses with gusto. There is also a wee bit of romance as the brothers fall in love with two 12th Century lassies. Mystery buffs will speculate if Aeoh will really succeed in helping them to return to the 21st Century. Readers invariably mention how they enjoyed the surprise ending.