No, this isn’t a deathmatch.
Sorry to disappoint.
When I write, I just write. I write narration as it pops into my head. I write dialogue as it sounds natural to me.
Not for one minute did it used to occur to me that my readers would not understand what my narrator/characters are saying simply because they ‘aren’t from ‘round ‘ere’.
I was wrong not to take that into consideration.
There, I admitted it.
If ‘certain someone’s’ come along and cheer at that announcement, I shall be having words with them. You know who you are!
So … when did this awareness kick in?
Well, theoretically, it SHOULD have kicked in around a year ago when I started letting people from across the pond loose on my writing on my favourite critiquing site. They’d reach certain words/slang, and I’d see a comment that looked something like this: <<huh?. Or one of my favourite comments: <<this an Engrish saying? :P. (yes, that second one comes complete with cheeky face and purposeful misspelling, LOL).
This works both ways, though. I’ve read stuff by US writers, also, where I’ve not had a flippin’ clue what they’re saying because they’ve slipped into slang only familiar to them/their region.
Since signing my contract for my debut novel, Darkness & Light, I’ve had to work closely with an editor. Said editor is (yep, you’ve guessed it) American—as is my publisher. And I’ve had many a ‘discussion’ with her about my too-British terms.
Some may argue that said British terms should remain 100%, as my main character is British, the story is set in England … however, on reflection, I have to agree (on a certain level) that some of them need to go.
Why? Well, for more than one reason.
1) British slang/colloquialism is HUGE! What is said/how something is said can vary from county to county. From the south to the north, all regions have their own language that often requires translation by other Brits if they don’t live that area.
2) Why restrict myself? I would love for Darkness & Light (and any future works of mine that are published) to be read across the pond. What if I had the potential to reach US readers, but their inability to understand what’s being said in my book sets an instant barrier? I would hate for that to be a reason they couldn’t enjoy something I’ve written—to risk alienating an audience.
HOWEVER, I have ensured enough of the Brit in me remained to ensure my work stays authentic. After all, it wouldn’t sound like it was written by me if it didn’t sound at least a little bit British.
What about you? Have you ever strayed too far into your regional slang? Have you/would you tone it down a little if it meant more readers could understand your work?