My books are Australian.
They should sound Australian? Shouldn’t they?
Lately I’ve been thinking about colloquialisms in my writing, because a wonderful Beta reader pointed them out, and I’ve realised I’m guilty of making quite a few.
For example from the opening scene of my WIP novella, The Goodbye Ride:
The name didn’t ring a bell.
Whatever he did for a crust.
“The rear shocks are shot to buggery.”
“You’re pulling my leg.”
I talk about “thongs” and “sneakers” and a “ute.” (Now everytime I see the word ‘thong’ I end up with a vision of Ali-G and his man-kini… see… it’s not pretty, is it!)
I’ve spent a lot of time around your average dinky-di blokes. This is how people I know talk. This is how my characters think, and talk, and they feel right when I write them. But what would an American reader make of my book? At what point does enjoyment of writing cease, because a reader needs to keep googling colloquialisms? Is this part of the reason I often hear that US readers tend to read US writers (more readily at least, than international authors unless they’re big names?)
I was lucky enough to have a lovely review for His Brand Of Beautiful from a writer and blogger in Florida, Victoria Pinder. She added some translation into her review, mentioning how the book begins with a “hen’s party”… (bachelorette party in the US). When I thanked Victoria for the translation, she said part of the enjoyment for her is reading in the local language. She wouldn’t have wanted to read an Australian-based book using American language or lingoism.
I had another funny experience on Saturday at Jennifer Crusie’s blog. It was an Easter conversation and in the comments, there were many mentions of “peeps.” Now to me, ‘peeps’ are Twitter followers and not much else, and as everyone was talking about cooking, microwaving and eating these ‘peeps’ – I asked the question: “What are peeps?”
I found out they are “little marshmallow chickens that are covered in some sort of spray dye and crystallized sugar.”
Eeewww. I kinda wished I hadn’t asked.
I then found out that in the US people make peeps into tableaux, and enter them into contests. One of the commenters even suggested some links! Seriously – check these out – they’re amazing!
So in the end, I learned something and felt good about the process.
I think I can have my peep and it too. I’m going to be more aware of colloquialism in my writing and do what I can to remove some of it, especially when it really won’t matter if the line was written in another way. But where colloquialisms add to character, or setting, I think I’ll vote to keep it. And I’ll hope that my reader gets involved enough not to let it stop her flow. And in the best case scenario, perhaps she will get a sense of our great Aussie culture in the process.
Now that would be nice, peeps! What do you think?