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Disclaimer: the views expressed by the characters in these works may not necessarily represent the views of the author. Got that? Good.

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Friday, 21 May 2010

#FridayFlash: UCF Stories #10: Professional Services.


I'm trying something a little different this week by attempting to incorporate dialect into my writing. It's not something I've tried before, so please let me know what you think, and now, without further delay, on with the story...
_________

As the last of the refugees trudged down the stairs into the space beneath the basement of Goddess Rising, Master Botchett nudged his wife.

'I think we're going to need more pease pudding, pet.'

'Alright, bonny lad, I've only got one pair of hands,' she glanced over her shoulder at the arriving Pixies, 'Oh, look at the state of them, and those poor bairns.' She returned to stirring the cooking pot vigorously.

Catching sight of Swazzle and Pogmorton, Botchett called to them through a gap in the curtains that separated his living quarters from the rest of the basement.

'Howay in lads, and take the weight off your feet.'

Swazzle and Pogmorton collapsed wearily into chairs beside the range where Mistress Botchett stirred her pot. A long scrubbed oak table occupied much of the space, groaning under the weight of platters of sausages, dishes of pease pudding and piles of flat breads. Swazzle's stomach growled noisily.

'Hungry?' Botchett regarded the two Pixies, 'Of course you are. Here,' he added, loading two plates with food, 'get that down you then you can give me all the news, like.'

As Swazzle and Pogmorton began to devour their meals, Botchett took out a bottle from the dresser and poured them each a large measure of dandelion whisky. He pushed the horn cups over to them.

'This'll put hairs on your chest!'

Pogmorton spluttered as the yellow, fiery liquid hit his stomach, his eyes rolling right round in their sockets.

'By the gods!' he coughed, 'that's powerful stuff.'

'Aye, it is that, bonny lad,' chuckled Botchett, 'Made by my own fair hand an' all.'

Swazzle looked suspiciously at his glass before taking a tentative sip.

'Gawd!' he mumbled, 'My lips have gone numb. What do you put in this stuff?'

Botchett merely tapped the side of his nose and winked.

'So, Cap'n Pogmorton, what news from the front?'

Pausing for a moment to marshal his thoughts, Pogmorton related how the Wyrm had all but destroyed the Pixie kingdom and how it seemed hell-bent on going after the fairy castle next.

'Aye, well, it would do,' remarked Botchett.

Swazzle and Pogmorton looked puzzled.

'It would do, seeing as it was them fairies what imprisoned it in the first place, like,' Botchett pulled out a small clay pipe, lit it with a taper from the range and sucked greedily till it was well alight. Clouds of noxious smoke billowed upwards, making Swazzle's and Pogmorton's eyes water. Mistress Botchett appeared immune to the effects of her husband's pipe.

'That was hundreds of years ago, mind,' Botchett gestured with his pipe, 'I was only a bairn at the time, but I remember Grandpa telling me all about it. Seems the fairies did a deal with the Night Packers, summat that stopped the Wyrms seeing in the dark, and managed to bind the whole lot of 'em.'

'Grandpa was there,' he continued, 'got himself talked into helping catch 'em. Regretted it bitterly like, when he saw what happened,' Botchett took a long draw of his pipe, 'He was never the same afterwards. Here,' he pulled a battered journal from a dresser shelf, 'it's all in here, if you can read the writing. My eyes aren't what they were, bonny lad, but you're welcome to have a look if you want.'

Swazzle took the journal. The leather binding was scuffed and ancient, but the crest on the front cover remained just about legible, “L. Botchett and Sons, Purveyors of Worm Handling Services, est. 994 AD. A Chronicle,” he read.

'Gnome Worm Handlers?!' Swazzle exclaimed.

'Why aye man,' replied Botchett, puffing his chest out, 'I come from a long line of gnome worm handlers, bonny lad. In fact, what I don't know about wrangling worms, isn't worth knowing, not,' he paused thoughtfully, 'not that there's much call for it nowadays, like.'

Swazzle and Pogmorton exchanged glances.

'Are you thinking,' began Swazzle.

'Certainly am,' said Pogmorton trying to contain his excitement. 'I don't suppose,' he continued.

'That I'd give you a hand to sort out your current worm trouble, like?' chuckled Botchett, 'Bonny lad, I thought you'd never ask. Mother,' he called to his wife, 'Where's me worm catching gear?'

'Under the stairs, love,' she called back, dumping a large pile of pease pudding into a serving dish. 'Eee pet, you will be careful, won't you? You're not as young as you used to be.'

'Aah, hadaway, man woman, I'll be careful. It'll take more an' a Worm to do me in. You stop here and mind the bairns, pet.'

He turned to Swazzle and Pogmorton, 'Gizz a minute to get me kit sorted out lads and I'll meet you upstairs,' and with that, Botchett dived into the shadows under the stairs and began rummaging about.

* * *

When Botchett appeared at the top of the stairs, Swazzle and Pogmorton were just bidding farewell to Jamieson, the house spirit. Botchett staggered up the last couple of steps, straining under the weight of a huge leather backpack that rose a good foot above his head, and from which swung all manner of nefarious looking objects. Scurrying at his heels, on a lead fashioned from a piece of string, was what looked to Pogmorton very much like a large shrew, its long snout constantly wiggling as it scented the air. Botchett caught Pogmorton's gaze.

'Delilah,' he gestured towards the shrew, 'Best Worm hound in three counties.'

'Evenin' Master Jamieson,' Botchett tugged at his cap.

'Master Botchett,' nodded Jamieson, 'Jist keep yon shrew away frae me, ye ken wha' happened the last time?'

'Aye, aye I do,' said Botchett, tucking a white scarf down the inside of his tweed jacket, 'Sorry about that, bonny lad,' he mumbled before turning his attention to the waiting Pixies.

'Ready then?' Botchett asked and, when Swazzle and Pogmorton nodded he added, 'Well, howay lads, let's gan an' see about this Worm of yours,' and with that, he pulled open the front door and stepped out into the night.'



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44 comments:

Sulci Collective said...

I think their dialect works just fine. It's all a question of the listening ear and you clearly have one.

Bests

marc nash

Marisa Birns said...

I think the dialect added a quite enjoyable "authenticity" to the piece.

It works!

There were places where I had to think a little about what was said, but was able to get it from context of rest of sentence.

Good for you for this layer of storytelling goodness, Sam!

safetycomfort said...

Works really well, Sam.

Only query I've noticed where the dialect is concerned is the "had away" ("Aah, had away, man woman, I'll be careful") which I think might be "haddaway". I've just double-checked that one - you're meaning it in the sense of "go away", yes?

Also (not dialect this time) is it supposed to be both "man woman" or just one of them?

I'll probably comment again later - this first reading is for dialect, and it's very good :-)

Eric J. Krause said...

Excellent story! You handled the dialect really well--you didn't overdo it. It's hard when authors make a reader slow down and piece together the dialog because of an overblown dialect, but you didn't do that at all. It flowed very well. Nicely done!

John Wiswell said...

Personally, I could have done without the dialect. Being a USer, I was trying to overcome both native British vernacular and phonetic oddities. At least for an international reader, reducing spelling dialect and enforcing it through word choice and speech patterns would probably function better.

Sam said...

Sulci Collective - Thanks Marc, I really wasn't sure if it would work and was quite nervous about posting. I agree with you about the listening ear, something I didn't realise I was blessed with until you commented.

Marisa - Thanks for those kind words. It did concern me that the dialect may lessen the appeal of this story, I'm so glad you were still able to enjoy it.

Safetycomfort - Thanks Josie, I've ammended "hadaway," and you were quite right - can't believe I let that one slip through the net! Yes, it's supposed to be "man woman," it's one of the foibles of the local vernacular that, when referring to a man, you'd say, "Hadaway man," but when speaking to a woman it's, "Hadaway man woman." I have no idea why though!

Eric - The posted story is actually version three as I kept going back and stripping out as much of the dialect as I thought I could get away with without affecting Botchett's character too much. Thanks, I'm glad the story still flows without unduly slowing the reader down; that was worrying me a bit.

John - Thanks John, I appreciate you commenting. I take your point and will try to look for other ways of incorporating the dialectic speech patterns in future. I did wonder whether it may have been better to post the story in plain English and incorporate the dialect into a podcast so readers wouldn't lose the sense of the story but could still hear the spoken vernacular. Do you think this may have been a better approach?

mazzz in Leeds said...

I liked the dialect, but then, unlike John, I have had experience of Geordie/north east before :)

Howay lads!

Sam said...

mazzz - Botchett says, 'Ta for yor champion comment, hinny. Aa'm happy to hev such canny marras, like. Aa hope yee's in fine fettle th'day kidda?' ;)

Thanks mazzz, I'm glad you think the dialect worked. I thought about providing a glossary but wondered if it'd wind readers up as much as it does me when I find one in a novel.

Jen Brubacher said...

I think the story itself is strong and so I enjoyed it. But as for the dialect, I think what happened is it became a lot of cliches: the state of them, get that down you, hairs on your chest, etc. Until he starts to tell the story, the scene is mostly those cliches and it doesn't really do the rest of the story justice. I have no trouble figuring out what they're saying, but I think it's not quite as natural as it could be.

I hope that makes sense. Like I said, the story is great!

Deanna Schrayer said...

Dialect is one of the most difficult aspects, if not THE most difficult, for writers to "get". You've got it Sam - very well-written, though I admit, having to translate the British along with dialect was a tad challenging. Still, excellent story, and I really like Botchett - seems quite the character.

I'm reading a book now - Fair and Tender Ladies, by Lee Smith, that is written as a series of letters by a young uneducated girl living in the hills of Appalachia, (VA, US), and if not for having grown up here it would've been almost impossible to intrepret. As the story moves along, and the girl teaches herself to read, her writing becomes clearer, and she spells words correctly, though the dialect is still there. It's a wonderful story, and has received many awards, but I know it would be quite challenging for anyone having not grown up in the region.

I'll hush now. :)

Sam said...

Jen - It's an interesting point you make, as none of those phrases immediately struck me as dialect, I had thought they were just turns of phrase used often by the the person I based Botchett's character on. Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you were still able to enjoy the story.

Deanna - Thanks. Yes, I'm coming to appreciate it's not always easy to follow a story written in the vernacular of one region or another. I'm still wondering if an audio version might not help in this case as, even for me, I feel a certain sense of Botchett is missed by the reader not being able to hear his pronunciation; for example, he pronounces the word "Wyrm" as "W-awe-m," which is how it would be in the North East of England. :)

Laura Eno said...

I enjoyed the dialogue, although if you'd written it as heavily as your answer to mazzz I wouldn't have been able to understand it!

I have a technical comment to make - in probably 50% of the dialogue I would have used periods instead of commas. For instance:

'Alright, bonny lad, I've only got one pair of hands.' She glanced over her shoulder at the arriving Pixies. 'Oh, look at the state of them, and those poor bairns.'

That works better for me but it's just my opinion.

Sam said...

Laura - Thanks for a great comment.

I'm glad you enjoyed the dialogue, I revised three times to strip out as much of the dialect as I thought I could get away with without losing the essence of Botchett. I'm glad I did because it's harder than I thought to write in full dialect as I did when replying to mazzz.

I think you're right, the dialogue would have read better without the commas; I'll certainly bear it in mind in future. Thanks again for the advice, I really appreciate it:)

peggy said...

I'm another American that had to decipher British and dialect, but I got the story.

Is "like" an affectation of Botchett or a common "dialect" mannerism? That word threw me the most the first time it appeared.

Overall, though, I am enjoying this series and I hope Botchett doesn't "botch it"!

Sam said...

peggy - Thanks for your comment, I hope the deciphering didn't spoil your enjoyment of my story.

"Like" is a common mannerism of the North East England dialect, I don't notice it any more, but people from outside the area (let alone those from abroad) often find it confusing. The other mannerism that often causes problems is the practice of referring to a man as "man," but to a woman as "man woman."

Thanks for those kind words about my serial, I hope Botchett doesn't "botch it" too. ;)

V.R. Leavitt said...

Oohhh, I like it a lot. The dialect works quite well. It doesn't bog down the story and didn't cause me to stop at all. Well done.

I also love the names! Great stuff.

Sam said...

V.R. Leavitt - Thanks so much! I'm really pleased to welcome you to the UCF Stories. I hope you enjoy the other installments in my serial.

Thank-you for those kind words, this is the first time I've incorporated dialect into my writing - it's certainly made for some interesting comments; glad it didn't spoil your enjoyment of the story.

I love the name of your blog BTW, hope to check out some of your writing shortly.

mariblaser said...

Great installment Sam! I love dialect when we can actually understand what's being said. (that's from a non-American and non-British viewpoint ;)

I second the others that if you had written in full dialect as your comment to mazz I'd understand zip! heh

Curious this "man woman" thing. I was going to ask too.

Finally, it might be normal on regular speaking, but as far as writing goes, don't you think that you've used "bony lad" a bit too much? Just a thought. :)

Oh, I'd love to hear a podcast of this!

Gracie said...

Well, I'm only British by ancestry, but I enjoyed the dialect. If this is your first try, Sam, you've done a great job.

The characters are very clear and they all have distinct voices. Loved Botchett, and what a great name.

Delightful lot of fun, this, as always.

Sam said...

Mari - Thanks for those kind words! Have I read your comment right that the dialect didn't cause you problems?

I was conscious of how much dialect I put in the first draft, and you're right, with hindsight I could probably have used "bonny lad" less often. Once I began writing, it was difficult not to hear in my head the peron who inspired Botchett, he uses "bonny lad" almost every other word; I need to watch this if I base a character on a real person in future. Thanks for the advice.

Yes, the "man woman" thing is very confusing, I don't know of any other regional British dialect that used a similar idiom.

I may just look into making a podcast of this story; I'd love readers to hear Botchett's voice.

Sam said...

Gracie - Thanks for those kind words about my characters. I'm pleased you like Botchett, he has rather grown on me since I thought him up. Jamieson, on the other hand, can be a bit of a pain, as we shall see in a future installment. Oops, that was almost a spoiler!

This dialect thing's not as easy as I thought it would be, I think I may need more practice.

Monica Marier said...

I generally leave dialect to the very corners of sentences, but yours was well executed. It read like you had said it out loud and only included the parts that flowed well into the language, and if you didn't, you fooled me.


I like the worm-hound. : )

Sam said...

Monica - Yes, I had some very strange looks from my two cats while wandering around the house reciting Botchett's lines to the world!

Thanks for the great feedback, I really do appreciate it.

J. M. Strother said...

I think the dialect worked well. there was only one place where I was left wondering >> "Aah, hadaway, man woman, I'll be careful." I can only assume the man woman is my woman?

Love the feel of these tales.
~jon

Sam said...

Jon - You know, you could just be right there! I don't think anyone's ever looked at the origins of "man woman," or at least, not that I'm aware of. It gets a bit confusing trying to explain that speaking to a man, the sentence would be, "Aah, hadaway man," but when speaking to a woman the "man" is retained also.

Thanks very much for the feedback, I really do appreciate it, and I'm glad I seem to be managing to jkeep a consistent feel throughout this series.

ganymeder said...

The dialect works just fine, and I like the way you wrote phonetically. My only other comment would be that he seemed to say "Bonny lad" a few too many times.

The story was well told and the characters held my interest. Well done.

John McDonnell said...

"Bonny lads" and "bairns", eh? It rings true for me. Dialect is hard to get right, but you've done an excellent job.

jdanetyler said...

Dialect is such a tough thing ... if the reader's familiar with the sounds and the expressions, it's fine and makes sense. If not, they're thrown out of the story trying to decipher what's being said.

While I wouldn't have put as much in as you included in this piece, it was an enjoyable read and I could feel the earthy, moist sort of atmosphere. Very well done.

Sam said...

ganymeder - Yes, I think you're right, too many "Bonny lads." Writing dialect phonetically is an interesting one - it was the only way I could think of to convey how the word sounds, though it's not a foolproof system; "Wyrm" for example is pronounced "W-awe-m" the way Botchett says it, I didn't write it this way for fear of confusing readers. Thanks for the kind words about my story and characters also.

John McD - Thanks so much. I was really panicing about whether dialect would work or not, never having written it before, therefore comments like yours are all the more welcome. :)

jdanetayler - Yes, I think you're right, if I'd gone for a fourth re-write I would probably have taken more of the dialect out. That said, I'm glad it didn't spoil your enjoyment of the piece, and thanks for your coments about the atmosphere, exactly what I was aiming for whilst trying not to telegraph too much.

Valerie said...

I'm finally caught up on this and it's delightful. I love that I can't decide which side to root for, fairies or pixies. No black and whites here, just two groups trying to get by.

As for the dialect, I thought it was fine. Some people really do speak in trite phrases so as much as that's a sin in writing, sometimes it's just part of the voice. You might want to mock that at some point to make it clear that it's the character and not the author, perhaps.

Can't wait for the worm catching to commence!

Sam said...

Valerie - Thanks for your great comment. I'm really pleased you like the series...it seems like an age since I wrote the first one. Shades of grey, hey? That's what I was aiming for, half the time I can't tell who the good guys are either!

Thanks for your feedback on my use of dialect, and I agree about making the distinction between author and character clear, I'll try to find a way to work that into future installments. :)

David G Shrock said...

The dialect is fairly good; maybe some more work, but uncertain if it adds much to the story. Maybe, maybe not. Tough call for me. As usual, fun story. Always enjoy UCF.

Sam said...

David - Thanks for the feedback, I do appreciate it. TBH I enjoyed writing the dialect, though as others have commented, I think I could have got away with less of it.

I'm very pleased to hear you're still enjoying the UCF Stories.

Anne Tyler Lord said...

Sam, the dialect worked for me and I enjoyed meeting this worm master. I hope he can help them with the wyrm problem.

I did find some of the phrases different - man woman and like - but found it interesting to learn about thi dialect. You do have a very good ear.

Sam said...

Anne - "Worm Master!" Awesome Anne, I'll borrow that term for Botchett. Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it. :)

KjM said...

I could both hear and see Botchett all through this. I think you got the sound just right.

There were, perhaps, too many repetitions of "bonny lad" but that may well be just me.

I loved the "howay lads", a sound I've heard, but had never seen written.

You have a fine ear, and a good way with story.

Sam said...

Kevin - Thanks for the feedback, I do appreciate it. I think you're right about the "bonny lads," I should have limited it's use more than I did.

Welcome to the UCF Stories, I hope you enjoy the rest of the installments.

Icy Sedgwick said...

It makes such a lovely change to be able to read my native tongue in fiction!! You captured the dialect SO well. And you've just created my new favourite character!! Well done, bonny lad.

Sam said...

Icy - Cheors kidda! Aw thowt yee'd appreciate it, like. :D

Josie @safetycomfort said...

As promised, a second reading ;-)

I'd definitely want Botchett on my side if I had a bad case of Wyrm infestation to be addressing. I reckon he knows his stuff, that man. I look forward to the battle against the Wyrm, or whatever it is you might have up your sleeve. And I still don't trust those Pixies!

I must compliment you again on the dialect - I could 'hear' it in the telling, especially the echoes of my great aunt's voice: "Eeee", "pet" and (in comments) "hinny". I'm wondering if you still have the first draft?

(I've also been having a bit of trouble with the commenting widget - I was using the OpenID option which is a pain, so I've now given up on it. Blogger, pffft).

Sam said...

Josie - Thanks muchly for giving this a second reading. Botchett may have been outn of the worm handling game for a while, but you're right, he does know his stuff; and you're right about the Pixies, I feel the same, and I'm the one writing them!

Thanks for the kind words about my use of dialect, sadly I didn't keep the first draft once I began the editing process. I should have done, but I reckoned it would make for very hard reading for anyone not familiar with the North East dialect.

Sorry to hear you've had trouble commenting. I've never used the OpenID option. What sort of problems has it been causing?

Josie @safetycomfort said...

I *think* the OpenID option is about getting different authentication systems to talk to each other and remember details. In this case, authenticating the connection between Blogger and Wordpress seems to want me to jump through three or four hoops which can be confusing.

All that said, it seems the simplest option is to forget about OpenID, and use one of the other two - which is exactly what I've done!

mariblaser said...

Hi Sam, you understood well. The dialect you used was light enough for me to grasp what the characters meant to say, even though I too was tangled in the expressions the others pointed out.

Overall, I think it worked pretty well! As reader, I forgive one or two expressions I don't understand, after all it's a dialect! heh

What I wouldn't like is if I weren't able to understand the story because the dialect was too heavy. You shouldn't worry about it though. ;)

Walt said...

Like John Wiswell (commented above) I am a US reader and struggled a bit with the dialect. The story felt choppy, not because of the pacing, but because I had to re-read some sentences to grasp the meaning.

Reading over it a second time was much smoother and I enjoyed it even more. I found it very interesting and would happily read more of this tale.

Thanks for sharing

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