We've been having a discussion of late in our writing group about slang and accents and regional dialects and whether it interferes with a reader's comprehension. How authentic do we dare draw our characters? With the internet offering a world of readers access to our work through various websites,novels that are written from a local perspective are reviewed and judged by outsiders with often limited, or less, experience of the people from a particular area. So for example, jargon and ways of speaking that most people in England would recognize as coming from this or that part of the country, are being scrutinized by non-British reviewers who question what it all means and if it's really necessary, or maybe the author just can't write and doesn't know proper grammar. So if someone writes a character straight out of the Queensland bush, should they subtitle the dialogue a la Guy Ritchie's “Snatch” character?
As this discussion has been unfolding,I just happen to be reading “As I Lay Dying,” by William Faulkner. Here's a guy who has never stopped winning accolades for nailing authenticity in his regional characters. Here's a sample:
Durn that road . . . A-laying there,right up to my door, where every bad luck that comes and goes is bound to find it. I told Addie it want any luck living on a road when it come by here, and she said, for the world like a woman, “Get up and move, then.” But I told her it want no luck in it, because the Lord put roads for travelling: why He laid them down flat on the earth. When He aims for something to be always a-moving, He makes it long ways, like a road or a horse or a wagon, but when He aims for something to stay put, He makes it up-and-down ways, like a tree or a man. And so He never aimed for folks to live on a road, because which gets there first, I say, the road or the house? Did you ever know Him to set a road down by a house? I says. No you never, I says, because it's always men cant rest till they gets the house set where everybody that passes in a wagon can spit in the doorway, keeping the folks restless and wanting to get up and go somewheres else when He aimed for them to stay put like a tree or a stand of corn. Because if He'd a aimed for man to be always a-moving and going somewheres else,wouldn't He a put him longways on his belly, like a snake? It stands to reason He would.