Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Distinctive Speech Patterns for Your Characters

Each character in your story needs to have their own unique voice within your voice as an author. The reader will become easily bored if each character uses the exact same words or phrases. How do you make them sound different, and how do you decide what they should sound like without irritating and overwhelming?

Two of the most famous examples of authors who created unique character dialog are Mark Twain in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Reader’s either love it or hate it, but their characters have made an impression on millions over many years.

Your character’s background should include where they came from, their education, and distinct personality traits. This will give you a clue for what kind of speech patterns to look for. Each of us speaks a little different, so you can use nicknames unique to a particular character. My female protagonist’s long-time friends call her “Bon,” short for Bonny, and even “Carrot-top,” because of her red hair. Her friends in Scotland never use these terms, so it also adds a feeling of long-term familiarity between the characters.

Not all characters in a story come from the same background, even if they currently reside in the same local, so research needs to be thorough. It’s hard to do if you’ve never been there before, so reading books set in the same place and time as your book can help. Watching movies set in the time period and location help you get a feel for it, but you still have to write the dialogue so the reader understands.

When I set my book in Scotland I had to do some research because although they speak English, it’s not the same as in my native New Mexico or even the same as England. So where can you find information about how English is spoken in a unique fashion in different places?

Here are some helpful hints on how I gave my characters from Scotland and New Mexico a distinctive sound. The same can be done for most dialects and languages.

·         Visit the location. I would never have known that when ordering water in a Scottish restaurant the waiter will ask if you prefer “still” or “sparkling.” I would have no way to know that when it comes to entering and leaving a place the signs would say “way out” and “way in,” rather than “entrance” and “exit.” My Scottish characters call their phone a “mobile,” while my American characters use “cell phone.”
·         Have someone proof-read or edit that lived in the place your story is set
·         The male protagonist is very educated, but in moments of deep emotion the female protagonist, depending on the POV (point of view) will think to herself that his Scottish burr is becoming stronger. To emphasize it further, he often drops the end of words ending in “-ing,” so “feeling” becomes “feelin’.”
·         Google it. You would be surprised how many articles you’ll find about language and linguistics.
§  Wikipedia
§  Omniglot.com has a variety of pages about pronunciation and even lists of words and common phrases, some by region
§  YouTube has many videos of people speaking and also illustrating pronunciation
§  Watch movies set in the place, or better yet, made in the place you are researching
§  Articles about dialect like http://www.whoohoo.co.uk/scottish-translator.asp; lexilogos.com; and freelang.com
§  Internet lists of common slang terms for the region

Don’t go overboard with foreign words that no one understands. Make certain to italicize the phrase and offer a glossary of terms. This does not work well in Kindle or Nook format, so choose a few common terms that your characters will use and reuse. For example, Land of My Dreams is a romance so a frequently repeated phrase is “I love you.” In Scots-Gaelic (which does differ from Irish or Manx Gaelic) the phrase is Tha gaol agam ort. Give the phonetic pronunciation in your glossary, in this case, Ha gool akum orsht. I would certainly never have pronounced it like that!

Have a few phrases that will become easily recognizable to your readers, and whenever possible, try to include a translation in the text. For example, in my current WIP, the sequel to Land of My Dreams, the Scottish male protagonist uses the Scots-Gaelic for “my darling” when speaking to the American female protagonist:

Mo grĂ dh…”
My darling, the Gaelic endearment coupled with his tender smile was enough
 to make her head spin…”

The reader immediately learns what the character has said, and it becomes even more romantic to discover how the female protagonist feels about it.

The female protagonist is from New Mexico, a very distinctive region of the United States, and her speech reveals that. She uses words such as adobe, luminaria, chile and chili (the first being the uncooked variety, and the second being the cooked variety), and sopapillas, when talking about her home. She also manages to get her Scottish love hooked on New Mexican food and courageously eats haggis and Forfair Bridies.

Once you’ve written a scene where you try out some of these ideas, bounce it off a Facebook friend or someone who lives in the area you’re writing about. You can give your story the flavor of another country or a region of the United States in a way that enhances the story and makes the characters unique, without overwhelming the reader.

© Norma Gail Thurston Holtman, March 30, 2015

About the author:
Norma Gail’s debut contemporary Christian romance, Land of My Dreams, set in Scotland and New Mexico released in April 2014. She has led weekly women’s Bible studies for 19 years. Her devotionals, poetry have appeared at ChristianDevotions.us, the Stitches Thru Time blog, and in “The Secret Place.” She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, FaithWriters, Romance Writers of America, and the New Mexico Christian Novelists. She is a former RN who lives in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband of 39 years. They have two adult children.

Connect with Norma:

Book Links:
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas Bookstore: http://store.lpcbooks.com/product/land-of-my-dreams/

Monday, July 27, 2015

Weekly Windup: Comment to Win The Queen's Handmaid by Tracy L. Higley

Congratulations to Cathy Elliot who was the winner of Worth the Time by Laura Jackson!

If you are a winner, please contact us here with your address to claim your prize. 

This Week's Giveaway is:

The Queen's Handmaid by Tracy L. Higley

A jealous Egyptian queen. A lascivious Galilean governor. A beautiful servant girl. Theirs is a story of prophecy, self-discovery, and revelation.
The year is 39 BC. All of Alexandria awaits the arrival of Herod, the Galilean governor with his eye on the Judean kingship. The handmaid of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, receives a troubling visitfrom her aging mentor.
An orphan since birth, Lydia lives in the palace at the demand of Cleopatra and her royal child, the son of Julius Caesar. But Lydia has a growing problem on her hands: her beauty is becoming a liability to the aging queen, and the visiting Herod’s undisguised interest only makes matters worse.
When Lydia’s mentor is murdered, the handmaid inherits a daunting task. An ancient set of sealed scrolls, the secret writings of the prophet Daniel, must be returned to Jerusalem—before those who killed her mentor destroy the scrolls as well. The future of the Israelites depends on it. So Lydia leaves the palace to serve as lady’s maid to Herod’s wife in the Holy City.

Special thanks to Linda Matchett for volunteering this giveaway! 

This giveaway runs through August 9th. Comment on any post between now and then to enter, and remember, the more comments you make, the more entries you earn!

    Winners will be announced in the Weekly Wind-up.

  Coming up this week:

Monday: Devotion by Jodie Wolfe
Tuesday: Distinctive Speech Patterns for Your Character by Norma Gail
Wednesday: Musical Chairs with Amber Schamel
Thursday: A Rancher Takes a Cook by Crystal Barnes
Friday: Heidi Main reviews Jodie Bailey's Smoke Screen
Saturday: An interview with a character from Jodie Bailey's Smoke Screen

We look forward to hanging out with you this week!

 Check out our Prizes Galore Page to see all our giveaways.

Sweep Away the Dirt

Psalm 51:10 "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

 Photo courtesy of pixabay.com
Today I finally got around to doing a job that I have been putting off for months - cleaning off the front porch. Somehow it had become an extra storeroom - trashcans, flower pots, dead flowers in pots, bows and arrows, bubble pipe, seeds that were drying out, some chairs that need fixing, etc. Those were just the big items. Then there was the accumulation of dirt, twigs, stones, grass, and leaves.

I had my sons help move the various objects to their "home". After removing all the objects I was able to see all the dirt and debris that had collected on the porch - more than I realized. I picked up the obvious trash and threw it away and then started sweeping the porch clean. When the task was completed I felt a sense of satisfaction and renewal in some way.

I was reminded of the "dirt" that can daily store up in our lives. Unkind words spoken, an attitude, responding in anger or frustration, not taking the time to listen to a child, spouse or friend... I realized how important it is to daily go to God and ask him to clean out the dirt and cobwebs that are in my heart. I pray each day Lord that you show me the need to start fresh and pure.

When's the last time you did some 'sweeping'?

 Originally posted on Digging For Pearls Blog - 9/25/07
Digging For Pearls A.K.A. Jodie Wolfe
Jodie's Website