The other day I received an email from a “wonderful lady” that read my book Running Northwest who is from somewhere in England. She complimented me on the story, which she loved then berated me for my “poor grammar”. She paid a lot of attention in particular to the grammar in the dialogue when it came to Thomas and his son Daniel speaking to each other. In addition, the dialogue between Thomas and his best friend Derrick seemed to irk her also. I thought about how to respond. I could have sent a polite message back or a shitty one where I dammed her ancestors…I did neither I have read in places it’s unwise for author to do either one.
Below are a few examples that she brought up.
“Layla, that’s gross,” said a child’s squeaky voice from underneath the blankets. “But good morning to you too girl,” he said laughing.
“Hey Dad, g’morning,” the young boy said smiling as he sat up and wiped his eyes.
“Morning to you too Kiddo. How did you sleep?” Tom asked.
“All right I guess, I had some weird dreams but I’m fine I guess. I am starving Dad. What’s for breakfast?” Daniel, Thomas’ son asked.
“Congratulations man. I’m seriously happy for you; when are you gonna do it?” Thomas asked.
“Thanks. I wasn’t sure what you would say. I was going to do it today on the bike ride but I got too nervous.”
Thomas waved his large hand in the air at his friend and chuckled, “Man you don’t need my permission; with all that we’ve been through you should know I’m behind you no matter what.”
“Of course I know that, but it never hurts to get the Don’s blessing if you know what I mean,” Derrick said jokingly, referencing Thomas’s old nickname from back in Michigan, making Thomas laugh mildly.
“Yeah, that’s what they say,” Thomas replied as he slowly took sip of his drink and then added, “So when do you think you’re going to ask her?”
“Hell, I don’t know… thinking about tomorrow. I don’t want to put it off any longer than I already have. I’ve had the ring for over a month now,” Derrick said.
“Seriously? You’ve had it for a month and you haven’t told me about it yet? You’re breaking my heart man… we used to be so close,” Thomas said, trying to pretend to be put off but laughing.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. I think I’m going to take her out for a ride and then dinner tomorrow; ask her then,” Derrick said.
Now I’ll humor her for a moment and I will rewrite the first part of dialogue between Thomas and his son with “proper” English…well to the best of my ability I will (since the existence of it is debatable) and I’ll throw in some humor. Now keep in mind Thomas is in his 30’s, a single dad and his son, Daniel is 7 and turns 8 later in the story (which I don’t bring up) and they live on the quiet Oregon coast.
“Layla, that is most disgusting. I am now covered in dog slobber and remnants of fecal matter. I must cleanse myself,” said a child’s squeaky voice from beneath the blankets of his sleeping abode. “However, good morning too you also my canine friend,” he said with great humor.
“Hello dear father and how are you this fine morning. I pray that you slept well,” the young boy said smiling as he sat up and wiped his eyes contemplating his father existence at such an unholy hour.
“Good morning to you also my dearest son. My slumber was acceptable. How was your rest during the hours of darkness in which Satan and his minions roam the earth?” Thomas asked as he bowed toward his son greeting him in an appropriate manner.
“I think that I slept quite pleasantly my lord. However, I did have some quite vexing dreams that caused me night sweats and possibly a small amount of urination in my nightshirt. My stomach is famished and I require vast amounts of sustenance so that I might have the energy to persevere through another day at my academy of indoctrination. What shall we ingest for our breakfast meal dear father?” Daniel requested with a bow in return.
Now, I am sure you noticed the difference in tone and grammar as well as exaggerations…unless you are in fact an idiot. What 8-year-old talks like this…or even close to this? What adult talks like this for that matter? Maybe I embellished slightly and went to an extreme this kind woman was not intending. Nevertheless, here is my stand on the matter and why I wrote my dialogue the way I wrote it.
One of my goals of Running Northwest was to have it FEEL real. I wanted it to be something actual everyday people could relate too and with while seeing parts of their lives in. I did not write it with reviewers and critics in mind but normal people like me who work their ass off, are careful with what they can afford and who enjoy reading a good story for the sake of reading a good story.
More than anything, I wanted people to feel good about themselves after reading it instead of feeling horrible or questioning themselves and their whole reality like some books will do. I wanted the interactions, the dialogue to be REAL and have the characters interact and talk to each other in the same way that most of us do in our everyday life. How many of us talk like the re-write above, how many of us talk to our kids and friends with proper and perfect grammar…most likely none (unless you are an ass).
How many children who are anywhere around 8 years old use proper grammar when they are speaking? How many even know what proper grammar is at that age or around that age? So why should they be portrayed in pieces of literature in a way that is not modern, natural, real or even accurate. I wanted the characters to seem real, flawed, insecure and emotional and I wanted the conversations to be real and truthful using slang, dialects and whatnot. I wrote the dialogue EXACTLY how I intended it to be written in the way that I envisioned the characters speaking toward each other. I did how I have heard people speak in many different places in North America. I will not apologize for it or feel bad about it.
When I greet one of my guy friends I say something like “How’s it going man/buddy, it’s been awhile,” and we man hug NOT “hello good sir. I am pleased to be in your presence once again,” followed by a bow or handshake from a respectable distance. No one does that anymore.
This is all I will say on the matter…people who complain should feel lucky since Derrick dropped the F-bomb constantly in the original version I wrote during the first 12 chapters as I do in my everyday life. I took that out for the sake of them. I am aware that it is not grammatically correct or even PC but I rarely do anything that is PC and today I just felt like being haughty.