Monday's Motivation

Character Dialect, Like Salt to a Dish

Over the course of the past few writing Mondays, I’ve discussed dialogue. This has probably been the hardest part of writing my novel. It takes so much research to get a dialect correct, especially a historical one. While you’re working on that end of things, you also can’t forget about your readers. They want to believe your story; therefore, dialect is necessary. However, they also don’t want to be bogged down by strange words and phrases. That’s a tough balance. It’s one that takes time to hone.

Today, I thought I’d share with you some of the words and phrases I’ve found helpful in my journey. I will warn you, overuse of any of these makes a good novel tedious to read. Space them out. Listen for the rhythm of the words, and ask yourself if your characters really would say such things. Dialect should be specific to each character’s background. Show the readers your characters by including it in your next novel.

My current WIP is a novel about the American Revolution. The following words and phrases are specific to the late 18th century, or were simply helpful while building the dialect of my characters. You’ll find some of the words are still used today, but the frequency or use has changed. I would not suggest using control find and replace. These words will not work 100% of the time in every context. They also must be used sparingly. I think I’ve emphasized that enough…Your reader will become tired of strange phrases, so sprinkle them in like a flavoring of salt to a dish. A little goes a long way…

1. aye=yes

2. charmed=pleased

3. turncoat=traitor

4. naught=nothing

5. have words=an argument

6. Sabbath=Sunday

7. mayhap=maybe or perhaps

8. parlor=sitting room

9. I dare=I encourage or I threaten

10. unholy=anything that is to be looked down upon or a shameful scene

11. kin=family

12. in spades=in plenty

13. thereabouts=around there

14. merriment=celebration

15. unfounded=without reason

16. indeed=to agree

17. civilized pursuits=upperclass activities/engagements

18. beseeching=begging

19. summons=message

20. recompense=apologies

21. nigh=nearly

22. wee=little

23. till=until

24. lass=young lady

25. on the morrow=tomorrow or morrow for morning

26. very well=to agree

27. nay=no

28. lobsterback=redcoat

29. ’twas, ’twasn’t= it was

30. ye=you (Note: thee was used less frequently at this time.)

31. ’twill=it will

32. yer=your (I used this one sparingly.)

33. Mercy=exclamation of shock or surprise

34. Right Honorable Lady= to address a lady in the upperclass

35. shan’t= should not

36. shall= ‘ll, do, would, will

37. doth=does/do

38. ’tis=it is

39. mustn’t=must not

40. Is it even so?=Really? Are you sure?

41. Many good thanks, Many and hearty thankings= Thank you

42. eve=night



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