Knowing the dialect

After centering your story on a region where the plot takes shape, you must be aware of not only the temperament and the idiosyncrasies of the nearby habitants but also their diction - their accent.

You DO know where your story is based at, don’t you?

Okay, let’s go back. A writer has to know where the story takes place, even (especially) if your characters will be moving to different places. In fantasy, a writer can get away with a lot simply by creating the world from scratch. Science fiction is also a genre with an easy out with the characters zooming through outer space visiting strange new worlds based purely on the writer’s imagination.

Yet for standard fiction, the plot line has to begin at some region unless you plan to have your characters out swimming in the open ocean. In that case, equip them with scuba tanks and teach them sign language.

If the setting takes place in a foreign country, then there must be people communicating in their native tongue. If the plot takes place in a certain region of your own country, as in mine - the United States, then the characters have to adopt those present characteristics of the area. Rural? Inner city? Suburb? Ghetto? Everybody talks and acts in their own funny, strange way. This is true in real life. If you want readers to relate to your story, mimic this true life.

Here is an example from my finished ms, The Stone Man. The setting takes place at the rural outskirts of a small town in Pennsylvania.
The cattle scattered as Graham navigated around the dark cow pies and neared the house. Both dogs trotted out the barn, took one look at the intruder, and barked madly. The farmer came out and gave a curious stare. Graham never knew what Cotter’s first name was and never asked whenever he snuck into the henhouse at night for a chicken dinner.

“Aye, help y’all with something? Um,” Cotter thoughts stumbled for Graham’s name. The farmer recognized the face enough where he felt comfortable with seeing the man on his property.

“Baxter,” Graham said with a shrug. He’d take the situation friendly, like two honest men having a conversation before they conducted their business. He’d ease into it while bringing up the subject offhandedly. “Where’s my dog?”

“Dog?” The farmer took out his plaid handkerchief and rubbed at the sweat on his neck. “Only dogs ‘round here are those two sheperds right there. Petey! Zeus! Quiet. In the barn.”

Both dogs released low growls and then slunk away. They stretched bodies on the loose hay at the barn’s entrance with their eyes still fastened on Graham.

Graham lowered the bat and leaned against it. “Miter. Bloodhound. He’s gone missing. Was in my trailer, sleeping on the bed. I heard a strange noise. Doors locked but the window open. He’s too old a dog for a jump out. Bad legs.” Graham’s hand pointed at the henhouse. “Both of us know about things when involving your roasters, yeah?”

The tone in Cotter’s voice turned cooler. “Yea, I know about y’all. Have that sick boy in the hospital. Wife ran off. Makes due with what y’all gets at the quarry. Sheriff Becken’s always heckling me into filing a report about the hens. Never did it. Saw no need, not with what y’all do for the kids and the owners at the fort. I saw the carvings done for free. Good work. Even trade for a lost hen now and then. Think I took y’all dog?”

“I don’t think you did it. But maybe one of your boys did as a prank? Don’t want to accuse you. But no one else I can think of who could’ve. Everything happened too fast.” Graham felt stupid for carrying the bat. Always thought people wanted a fight and he’d get in his licks first. This was partly his fault for the ban at the hospital.

He felt the moisture along his eyes. The farmer had taken him off balance with those words. Graham wasn’t expecting such understanding or compliments. He held the tears in with all his strength. “Bloodhound is all I got now.”

Cotter nodded. He shouted at the house. “EDDIE. GEORGE.”

They heard the running footsteps inside as the farmer’s sons came out and jogged toward them. When they caught a look at Graham, both boys turned meek. They held hands behind their backs. Their eyes gazed at scuffing feet against the dirt.

Cotter caught their expressions and glowered. “Y’all knows this man? Living down Hanna Mill? Does all them statues for the fort?”

Both boys shrugged.

Cotter cleared his throat. “Was y’all near his property messing ‘round? Did anything y’all shouldn’t be doing? ‘Cause if y’all lies and I find out the truth from someone else . . .”

“George gone and done it! I just followed him,” the younger boy spoke and received a jab in the side by his brother’s elbow. Yet once the squealing started, nobody could stop Eddie in claiming his innocence. “I just carry the tools. He went crawling under the man’s truck. ‘Fix him up right for stealing our hens,’ George said. He was under there for a good two hours. Did something. Don’t know what though. That ‘fore it up on those cement blocks.”

This took both Cotter and Graham by surprise. Someone had tampered with the truck? Yet it made sense to Graham. It’d felt strange when he and Tony went along the dirt bike course. The truck had responded sluggishly whenever Graham turned the steering wheel and pressed on the brake. He figured the bumps did it. Then the truck had slammed down off the big hill and the front axle cracked. He had the truck towed off the track. He’d figured he caused all the damage.
Graham had figured wrong.

The farmer’s face turned a deeper tomato red than one of his prized vegetables for the county fair. He grabbed both boys by their shirt collars and knocked their heads together. “Y’all can go get someone killed like that! Ain’t any bird in the world worth it. His doings in the henhouse are my concern. Ain’t up to the younglings to go meddling with a grown man’s affairs or stepping into their pop’s shoes.” He pulled his sons forward, knocked their noggins again for good measure, and then pushed them away.

Eddie and George fell backward, smacking their rumps hard against the ground. Both rubbed backsides and hung heads. The younger one started crying. George sat there in silence. His sight stayed glued on his shoes, the boy too mad at his brother’s tattling.

Cotter shifted around toward Graham. The farmer’s face filled with remorse. “First I heard about them with your truck, Baxter. I pay the damages my boys gone done. Was y’all in an accident ‘cause of it? Hands cut.” He pointed at Graham’s palms. “Anyone else hurt ‘cause I make good for their medical bills too?”

Graham shook his head. “Cuts on my hands are from handling some barbed wire. As for the truck, I drove it off a hill and messed up the front axle. Nobody got hurt. Only damage is to the truck beside what they might’ve tampered with under it. Don’t know for sure what though.”

“Finds out. Finds out good and I pay for it.” Cotter undid the belt buckle. He left the leather strap still through the jean hoops as he glared down at his sons. “What ‘bout this man’s dog? Bloodhound. Named Miter. Y’all go steals him today? Snuck into the trailer and take the dog this noon?”

“No, sir.” Both boys scrambled backward a few feet when seeing their father unclasp the belt buckle. George pointed one shaky finger at the house. “Go asks Ma. She tells you. We’ve been up in our room all day playing video games.”

“Where y’all shouldn’t have been with all the farmwork we need done outside,” the farmer grumped. He sauntered toward them, and they cowered to the sides as he walked past. The porch door banged after he went inside, leaving Graham near the farmer’s sitting sons. Eddie sniffled and wiped at his wet face. He kept his body tense while ready for the run of his life whenever the door reopened. With features a mask of rage and loathing, George had his eyes focused on Graham.

George muttered, “Your fault for getting us in trouble. Your fault for stealing our hens.”

“Your pop’s right though. No bird is worth killing someone over, and no boy’s business in bloodying his hands with a man’s life,” Graham remarked.
And there you have it. Know the dialect. Know the region where the story takes place. Most important, write what you know and research what you don’t know. It’s as simple as that.