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Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 11th, 2010, 10:07 am
by Seamus
Sorry for the misunderstanding. "Superego" is a psychogical term that refers to the part of us that is governed by restraint. I'm no expert in this, but my understanding is that your superego is the voice of your parent in your head with a lot of "shoulds." Of course this character would be sweet and decent. I'm talking about the source of her moral compass.

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 11th, 2010, 9:31 pm
by Nick
Dankrubis wrote:I agree with Taylor, aside from the holiday thing, everything looks pretty decent.

I wonder- it's real tiny differences like that (taking a holiday vs. a vacation) that would take forever to learn. Maybe you should do your best, then have an American read your first draft and have him/her pay special attention to the dialogue. Just a thought.
Definitely go with this suggestion, but I would like to add:

See if you can't find an American from the region. The reasoning behind that one should be more plain than Jane.

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 13th, 2010, 3:54 am
by fionaw
Thanks very much for all the help and suggestions!

It made me think more deeply about the characters - one of the things I hadn't considered was that the setup (plane crash in the Amazon) implies that all of them could (a) afford a holiday there and (b) would consider it as a holiday destination. Even in the US this would imply a certain level of financial security and social background, I imagine. Ed could have started out in the 'hood, but he's several decades and a lot of experience from it now. Plus, until relatively recently, people often worked to lose the speech that marked out their origins; I imagine a 50 year old African-American who has spent a career in the military will speak very differently from a new recruit with the same ethnic/regional background. But I'm not going to make it too complicated - this is commercial fiction, not a social commentary on the regional divisions of the disunited states.

One thing I do notice, as a Brit living in Australia, is that Aussies take a great joy in the words and phrases that make their speech Australian (galah, dunny, bludger, raw prawn, arvo, ute, barbie, tinny, stubby, snags, etc etc), yet I've never met this attitude anywhere else (except perhaps Scotland). It was much easier writing Aussie outback dialogue for the previous book!

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 13th, 2010, 7:31 am
by Bron
I'm an Australian, but I too have been writing American dialogue for my WIP. One thing I've noticed about Americans is that they tend to drop words out of their sentences. eg. "Two thousand ten" instead of "Two thousand and ten" or "couple years" instead of "couple of years". I'm sure this isn't true for all Americans, but it's something I've observed and might be something to consider doing every now and then.

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 13th, 2010, 10:06 am
by LydiaSharp
I agree with the others that the snippet you posted doesn't seem to have anything too jarring or out of place. If you're looking for true authenticity, however, you may need to ADD things that are specific to a certain background.

For example, I grew up in Ohio, and I didn't realize that I use Ohioisms until I traveled to other states and people pointed them out. Apparently, the word "at" and the phrase "you know" are crucial to my dialect. And both of those are placed at the END of the sentence.

So instead of asking, "Where is my coat?" I say, "Where is my coat at?" (Yeah, I know it's grammatically incorrect, but that's how we talk.) And instead of saying, "That was a cheap shot." I say, "That was a cheap shot, you know."

In writing, I don't apply those things UNLESS the characters are Ohio natives ... which is the case in my second novel, and yeah, I had a field day with the dialogue. My Ohio self is saying, "That's beautiful!" while the perfectionist writer side of me is screaming, "Fix it!"

I hope my point wasn't lost in all of that. I'll reiterate: If you want to make the character's background clear, adding little truisms like that can make it more authentic, but the reader is not necessarily going to miss them if they're not there.

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 14th, 2010, 8:08 am
by Jaime
I'm an Aussie, too, and my MS is set in the US.

I recently had an American friend read it, and she listed all of the things that Americans would say - vacation was one of them! Her input was soooooo helpful, so I would really recommend finding someone from the US who could read it for you, if that's at all possible. It's the little things, like 'couch' instead of 'lounge', and 'purse' instead of 'handbag', that I would never have picked up on!

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 15th, 2010, 12:13 am
by Pesimisticus
Don't know if it would be of help to you, but something I've noticed amongst my grandmother's little parties for her friends (who are, of course, of an advanced age), is that the older generation in the US uses a speech that more closely resembles British English (with different colloquialisms). For example, I've noticed that a lot of elderly individuals say 'rubbish' when referring to trash, but I *never* hear anyone else say it, to the point that it sounds very out-of-place if someone says it. Also, I've noticed that the oldest generation uses the word 'proper' more often in general conversations, as well as phrases like, "I've got it sorted", which, again, I never hear spoken amongst any other age group in the US.

The person who noted that American's tend to drop words from speech is quite correct (and I personally love this quirk of our dialect)--it is very common for us to drop already established subjects from phrases, as well as unnecessary articles, etc. For example, if you asked, "Do you know where Tom is?", the answer will almost always be, "No," while if you asked, "Where's Tom?", the answer will nearly always be "Don't know," versus "I don't know."

If you asked, "How many people are here?" The answer will probably be numbers sans articles, ie, "There's four-hundred, seventy-nine," instead of, "There are four-hundred and seventy-nine." Conversation can be very fluid and streamlined with the elimination of already established and obvious words.

Here's a little phrase-ology on things I hear Brits say that we don't:

- a car exclusively has a hood and a trunk, never a boot or a bonnet.

- trash can, not rubbish bin--garbage can is also regularly used--but we never say 'rubbish'

- very often, we will substitute "I" for "I've"--I lost my dog, instead of, "I've lost my dog." <-- This is very common.

- we often say "Did" instead of "Have" for questions. Ex. "Did you water the garden?" instead of "Have you watered the garden?"

- We use "doesn't have" instead of "hasn't got"

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 15th, 2010, 1:15 am
by JenD
Perhaps watching a few movies set in the time and place of your novel will help you gain some insight into the dialogue patterns. Like the others have said, things like holiday/vacation are common differences between British and American dialogue and there are quite a bit more. In USA, we say that we "go to the hospital" or "Joe is in the hospital", instead of "in hospital", for another example. I found this nifty page on which offers British to American English word and phrase translations which may be of some use to you. Here's the link: Happy writing!

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 15th, 2010, 8:40 am
by Shirls2010
It would be nice if there was a sort of babelfish translator online for this kind of issue. I'm trying to do Australian-speak for one of my characters but all I've come up with so far is "G'day" and "Don't come the raw prawn". The latter is probably hopelessly outdated and anyone from Oz would probably give it a peculiar look.

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 16th, 2010, 12:28 am
by Jaime
Shirls2010 wrote:It would be nice if there was a sort of babelfish translator online for this kind of issue. I'm trying to do Australian-speak for one of my characters but all I've come up with so far is "G'day" and "Don't come the raw prawn". The latter is probably hopelessly outdated and anyone from Oz would probably give it a peculiar look.
Yep. We sure would! I've never heard "Don't come the raw prawn"! In fact, we don't throw prawns on the barbie, or shrimps. Hell, I don't even eat them! But, yes, we do say "G'day" a lot. And it is followed by "mate". And then it's usually followed by "How's it going?", which sounds like "Howzit garn?"

Haha! We should devote a thread to cultural speech differences/colloquialisms! :)

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 16th, 2010, 5:23 am
by fionaw
Aussie dialogue is fun. Spot who's Australian and who's British:

‘You OK?’ the director said to her, returning from one of his rapid trips to the toilet.

‘I think so.’

‘You got lucky. Bloody refrigerator carked it yesterday, and no one noticed. There’s eleven people chundering their guts up now. If we lose any more to the trots, we’ll be buggered.’


‘G’day. Brett Vermulen. What have you got for me?’ He was in his early thirties, his skin tanned and finely creased over his wiry frame.

The sound technician had come up behind her. ‘Most of us are feeling better, but Sandra’s still chucking. She looks pretty crook.’

‘Stephen’s not too good, either,’ Alice added.

Brett grinned. ‘That’s better than I was expecting. From what comms said, I thought we'd be calling in the army to fly you all out.’

‘The army?’

‘RFDS can only take one at a time, usually. All right, ladies first. Where’s Sandra?’

Alice waited outside the crew block while he worked. It was cooling down at last, the sun setting, the eucalypts throwing elongated shadows across the orange earth. A flock of pink and grey parrots scratched about in the dust by Brett’s car. She wondered where Alex was, and then pushed the thought away. He would be enjoying himself, and he didn’t need to be reminded of what was going on here.

Brett emerged after about half an hour. ‘Lead on.’

Stephen was facedown on the bed, a sheet wound round his hips. Brett unrolled his pack on the floor, and spoke bracingly to him, received only grunts in response. Alice watched the examination, looked away while he set up an IV.
‘Can you hold this for me?’

She walked over and Brett gave her the bag of fluid. ‘Keep it this way up. I’m going to find something we can hang it on.’
He was back in a few minutes with a metal stand on tripod feet. ‘Film crews do have their uses.’ He grinned at her again. ‘Thought I was coming out to a bunch of wailing jessies, but you’re doing all right.’
This I can do, yet despite the ubiquity of American films, TV and books I still struggle with US colloquialisms.

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 16th, 2010, 10:16 am
by Jaime
Hahaha! Noice. But I'd say "chunderin'" if you're goin' for a true blue occa accent, where we hardly ever pronounce the 'g' :) It all depends if your Aussie character is from the city or the country, too. I'm a country gal, but now I live in the city. I really notice my accent when I go back home!

How long have you been out 'ere, Fionaw? If you came out post Kath and Kim days, then I'll take back my "noice", and just say "nice" :)

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 18th, 2010, 12:18 am
by robena grant
Yes, this can be tricky. I'm an Aussie but have lived in the U.S. for thirty plus years. My American critique partners were always circling phrases that would pop into my work when I was typing "in the moment" and not thinking American English. I'd say things like, "She didn't quite understand his intentions." And they'd say get rid of the quite. Things that were obvious, like boot for trunk, petrol for gas, kilometre for mile, they were fairly easy for me to catch but it was the odd phrases I didn't even know I used that tripped me up. I'm happy to say I've now eradicated most.
One thing I'll suggest is to make your American a Californian. I live in California. California is a melting pot of accents and backgrounds and cultures. There actually is no California accent. I can pick a Texan, a Southerner, a New Englander, a New Yorker, but a Californian can be a mix of everything. It might simplify things for you instead of going for say, a pure southern accent, or pure Texan.
The only things that jumped out of your text for me were holiday and kilometre.

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 18th, 2010, 8:23 pm
by fionaw
I've been to and fro between Aus and the UK since 1994. Been living in Tassie now for a little over two years.

I'm finding it increasingly difficult as far as the writing goes - much as I love living here I need to actually meet people to talk about writing sometimes. There is a local writing group but it meets weekday afternoons - so not a group that appears inclusive of anyone who has a full-time job!

Re: American dialogue

Posted: January 19th, 2010, 3:36 pm
by Terry
I agree with the others. The holiday was the only blip for me. Nice job. Why don't you post some more?

A novel written by an English woman, I read a few years ago, had a few British phrases said by Americans. So it is wise to check.

I saw a funny video a while ago about an English woman going to a language coach to learn American. The midwestern accent is now considered American English. I'm from Boston and I can't even manage a midwestern accent. The "R"'s. If I can find that video, I'll post it.