Uncle Remus is Dead!

Using dialect in your writing went out with “Uncle Remus.” Sure, it would now be considered not politically correct but forget that nonsense, it simply is not necessary and to top it off it is amateurish. You don’t need “Dem” and “Dose” and “Thoity-thoid and thoid” to let your readers know your character is a born and bred New Yorker. You don’t need “Hah-buh” and “Pahk ya Cah” to let them know the character is from New England. And for God’s sake NEVER say “Hunny chile” and “dumpling” and “Ya’ll cum back now sugah, ya heah?” when your character is from the South. Believe it or not, southerners actually do speak English. The movies have NEVER captured a southern dialect and quite frankly the phoniness of their attempts turns off those of us who live in the south. Actors who are actually from the south don’t speak any differently from other actors. Hollywood’s elite producers and casting people may not realize that we have very few plantations with slaves anymore.  If your plot is in a southern urban area leave out the dialect. The south is now so homogenized you would never know you were south of the Mason-Dixon line. Mountain folk everywhere (Appalachian, Pennsylvania Dutch, Green Mountain) all have such strong dialects you could never hope to duplicate it, so forget it. Let those characters speak like anyone else.

You can imply ethnicity with mannerisms instead of phony dialect. I’ll give you an example. In my novel Tropical Knights the protagonist Jack Stevens is looking for a cab to get out of town. The fact that he gets a chatty one who rambles on about everything being “rotten” is enough to let you know (if you or your reader have ever been there) that this guy is a New Yorker. Jack also encounters a newly arrived cabbie whose only expression is “Okey mon.” If your reader has traveled outside of his or her county they will easily recognize this driver as being Jamaican.

On to happy endings: If you kill off your protagonist (and I don’t care if he is an assassin or she is the Queen of England) you have accomplished two things and both of them are bad. Your reader does not like dead heroes, even if they were on the wrong side of the law. Also, by snuffing your hero you have thrown away the opportunity for a sequel or even a series. What if the readers really like your protagonist? It is hard to bring them back from the dead, unless you are a Vampire writer. In that case, you are reading the wrong blog. This is not the low information reader blog; that one is on the “Inside Kardashian” Web Site.

Quite simply, don’t kill the lead character. That doesn’t mean that your novel has to have a saccharine Disney happy ending. It is alright, and again I am going to refer to Olen Steinhauer’s “The Tourist” as an example of how to avoid the happy ending. His method is fine and often quite effective – if you give some hope to the reader that “everything is going to turn out right sometime.” And that is easy to do. Check out the last few pages of “Tropical Knights” and you may shed a tear, but somehow you instinctively know that salvation is just another novel away.

About johnbeckmanbooks

John Beckman, a retired meteorologist, was known as “Johnny the Weatherman” in a career that spanned forty years. He forecasted the weather on WSJS-TV in Winston-Salem, NC, at WFGA-TV in Jacksonville, FL, and for thirty-three years in Atlanta at WSB-TV and WXIA-TV. Also a well published author Beckman now devotes full time to writing fiction. He currently has several eBooks on Amazon.com, "Tropical Knights," first in a series of adventure/mysteries about a sailor and his lovely CIA cohort on a mission to save America. Now available the sequel, and second in the series: "Tropical Daze." The third Jack & Amy adventure is "Tropical Rage" which became available on 30 April 2014. All of his books are highlighted on http://johnbeckmanbooks.com and available from Amazon.com. . .
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