Writing: Atmosphere and Local Slang (with poll)

Posted: June 24, 2009 in Marquesate, Writing
Tags: , ,

british-bulldogI’ve been thinking about this question for a while. After all, I am in Britain (Scotland), am a British writer who writes British stories in British (mainly) settings with British soldiers. As anyone knows who’s read my stories, I very firmly believe in writing dialogue how it would  be spoken as in: yes, soldiers swear – a lot – and they use country, area, and work specific slang. Of course, that might very well mean that readers who are not from Britain, and/or not familiar with specific terminology, won’t easily understand. I made the decision, as a writer, to take that risk, to stay true to my characters and to keep the authenticity.

But what is your opinion? Do you, as a reader, want my squaddies to natter about egg banjos, eat scran and get some shut-eye in a maggot bag they’d been carrying in a bergan? Or do you want my British Army soldiers to talk about sandwiches with fried eggs, eat food, and get some sleep in a hooded sleeping bag they’d been carrying in a large, reinforced issue backpack?

What’s your opinion, and why?

  1. Mountie says:

    I love learning new slang and like how it makes the story realistic. I appreciate a glossary especially if the meaning is not self evident from the context. If they are British soldiers they definately should use British slang.

  2. Sara says:

    Your soldiers wouldn’t ring true if they were to speak a polished, standardized English – it wouldn’t be realistic at all.

    Maybe you could create a glossary page on your website? Just an idea :).

  3. Marquesate says:

    Hi Mountie and Sara, thanks for commenting. Sara, that’s a really good idea, creating a glossary. I will have a go at it, after all, it could be a work in progress. It would be really helpful, if readers pointed out what they don’t immediately understand, because I know what things are so it’s sometimes difficult to realise what isn’t understood.

  4. mllesatine says:

    Well, knowing what egg banjos are is not exactly crucial to the story. 😉
    I hate it when authors just throw slang around for the hell of it (fangirl japanese comes to mind) but I never had the feeling you do that.
    I can understand most words from context. So if they carry around a bergan on their backs, I get it’s a rucksack. And a quick google search provides the info, too.

  5. Marquesate says:

    😀 Granted, egg banjos might not be, but if one character mentions to another he’s off to phase one of PDT in a couple of weeks, and starts with a FIBUA exercise, I guess you wouldn’t know what they talk about. However, it wouldn’t make any sense at all to write these things out in the dialogue, because they wouldn’t, they would use the acronyms, so I always have to try and add somehow what they mean, without disrupting the narrative.

    And yes, my soldiers are knackered, take a kip, a few winks, catch some shut-eye, sleep in a maggot bag or bivvie bag, and so on.

    I’m really glad that readers seem to agree that keeping the language appropriate is the right way to go. 🙂

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