Friday, January 2, 2009

Your Nerves or Mine?

This has been bothering me for a few days, but I wonder if I'm just anal retentive, or if this is a topic that bothers other readers as well. The use of quirky language in books. And by quirky language, I mean the way the characters talk. Using wacko spellings to indicate brogue, Chicago-ese or my ultimate cringer, "gawd."

I truly believe in an author's right to be as creative as possible. Alternate worlds, species and hell, throw in genders if you want. But when I'm reading a book where the character says, for example, "Oh my gawd. He's so hawt," I can't help but cringe. Done once or twice I might let it go, but when the character says it every other line, I have to work hard not just to close the book, but to not throw the damned book/ereader across the room.

A bestselling book caught my eye at the store a few months ago. I'd been curious about reading it. The setting is cool, it's a kind of urban fantasy meets wizard world with a feisty heroine. Problem is, she's talks like she's stuck in a bad film noir set. Gangster lingo that drives me nuts. All I could see was James Cagney in a skirt. Not a pretty sight.

Hell, I had a hard enough time with one of the first historicals I read many years ago, where the author spelled out dialogue like " 'e's comin, miss. Whar can I put the bags, in 'ere?" Not sure if that was supposed to be cockney or what, but I had a headache by the end of the page. Now I realize the author was trying to go for authenticity, but since I live in the now, in America, it was awfully hard to understand, let alone follow what the heck was going on in the plot.

In my opinion, quirky is good, if not overdone. A character's oddities can be shown through action and yes, a bit of odd dialogue or slang, but too much can never be a good thing. Even in regular speak, when conversing with real people, I wonder about those I'm talking to that call me "babe" or "doll" or "honey." I'm just not used to talking to women like that in real life. Even my husband doesn't call me baby, though that I wouldn't mind so much.

So maybe it's just me, but the creative speech patterns of several of the authors I've read recently are just annoying me. Since dialogue is a compelling part of the book, when forced to skip it to go to narrative, I know that's not a good sign. But maybe I'm the only one that feels this way. Who knows?


molabamm said...

I know exactly what you mean! Sometimes it can be a little annoying when I have to reread a sentence to understand what the character is saying, but I can understand why the author chooses to do that.

Marie Harte said...

Yeah. With the historical author, a favorite of mine, I had to read slowly. She was consistent,and I eventually got used to the different speech patterns to where it no longer bothered me.
But the other stuff... I absolutely can't stand using "aw" to replace an "o." Hawt, Gawd, Lawd. Just drives me up the friggin' wall. But that's just me. Cutesy I ain't... (and you'll never know how much it hurts to use "ain't". )