Okay, I don’t talk posh. I’m not posh. It doesn’t matter. I’ll never talk like Princess Ann, but I can write using the Queen’s English when I need to. My dissertation at Uni wasn’t peppered with owts, nowts and summats.
The setting for my novel-in-progress is about working class teenage life in a northern town. It’s about kids who are growing up on a rough council estate, as I did. Without wanting to stereotype, I think it’s fair to say that the speech of people from a regional working-class background is often far from ‘Received Pronunciation’. How can I use dialogue in my novel to reflect this, without distracting readers from the story by drawing attention to the speech?
Some writers use a lot of dialect and mispronunciations. Their diction might be more true-to-life, but I find it irritating. As a reader, I don’t like ploughing my way through a lot of this kind of dialogue. Others might feel it works for them.
In my writing, I try to signal the way my characters talk by occasionally using dialect but not over-using it. Of course, what is ‘over-use’ is a matter of opinion. For me, it’s a difficult balancing act between veracity and easily readable dialogue. I don’t know if I’ve got it quite right.
Pat Barker in her first novel, ‘Union Street’, a gritty realistic novel of the dark side of working class life, uses dialogue which I think is just brilliant. I’m going to re-read this novel and see what I can learn from it about how to write effective dialogue.