Friday, 12 November 2010


I apologise for my sporadic updates lately. Since I have been involved with the Authonomy site, it has overtaken my life. I promise to do better....

It isn't easy to become a brilliant writer of dialogue, but I continue to try.

As a reader, in order for dialogue to work for me, it has to at least propel the story - move it on - tell me something that is happening; that has happened but I didn't already know; something that might happen; indicate the reason why .... etc.

 If not, it should tell me something about the character who is speaking - their personality - something about what kind of person s/he is - kind, manipulative, honest, determined, angry, assertive, etc.

I get really fed-up when writers write pages and pages of pointless dialogue, such as :
'Yes,' he said.
'Really,' she replied.
'Of course,' he continued.
And so on.

An issue that has cropped up lately, since I have posted some chapters of God on the Cocoa on Authonomy, is the question of DIALECT, speech specific to the locality. I will stress that it was ONE comment out of the 130++ positive, and very complimentary comments posted by readers. But this one made me think. The person, a Trinidadian reader, thought that the language used by the villagers in God of the Cocoa, was not accurate, and therefore the novel would not be acceptable as a novel about Trinidad.

My response to that was that the novel is set in 1919. The language spoken by the indentured Indians in Trinidad at that time, would not be understandable even by the Indians in Trinidad today, let alone by the wider English speaking readership.

The language then would have been a mixture of Bhojpuri, an Indian dialect, but mixed with Patois with some broken English words. This would in no way be understandable to my reader today. Not even a little of it. But I have sprinkled in a few words here and there to give a flavour.

My point is, that within dialogue, it is possible to indicate that the characters uses a different language, dialect or has a strong accent, without exclude the readership. I have incorporated a few Hindi words, removed some of the personal pronouns, changed some of the sentences to sound more authentic, and think that that should suffice.

If the novel was set in France, an English reader wouldn't expect the dialogue to be in French, or French dialect. One or two French words can be used, maybe, to give some authentic flavour. But not so many so as to completely baffle or lose the reader, causing them to fling the book aside.

Too much dialect in a book can be extremely annoying to the reader, whatever nationality it is. And the right level of dialect is not always easily achievable. That was a difficult lesson for me to learn. I had to write over 150,000 words before I realised that.

Interestingly, in the first book, the one which will never see the light of day, I did give a more authentic voice to some of the characters,with a strong village dialect. But even that was not realistic, because it was more present day. Still, it would not have been easily understandable to the wider English speaking reader.

If you have a point of view on this, please post me a comment! I would love to hear from you.

Some revised chapters have been posted on the Authonomy site. The address is:

Bye for now
Marilyn x

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