Speaking in Tongues

I love to write dialogue in my novels. And I think I do it reasonably well (at least, that’s the feedback I’ve gotten). I’m still trying to figure out things like tension, plot and characterization, but I’m mostly comfortable with verbal back and forth.

I think I developed an ear for dialogue because my parents exposed me to an amazing variety of people. Growing up on a farm in WV, you’d think my world would have been narrow. But it wasn’t. Even in high school I remember noticing that my dad functioned in three, primary worlds. There were the farmer, the high school teacher and the politician. Each world was different, requiring different clothes, manners and ways of talking. And dad was perfectly at ease in all three. Throw in my mom as nurse and some neighbors from Yugoslavia and I had quite a cornucopia of dialogue to internalize.

I hadn’t thought about this in years. Then over the weekend my husband and I burned a brush pile (the rear of our property is wooded, fallen branches accumulate fast!). This is the kind of work I used to do with my farmer dad. I saw my husband move to undo something I had just done and I said to him, “Now, I did that apurpose.”

He laughed and laughed and then kissed his “farm girl.”

I slipped into a way of talking that I likely heard from those men of the earth who lived on farms around us. Burning brush in my boots, work pants and flannel shirt (once my brother’s), I felt like a farm woman being a good steward of her land. And so I spoke like I thought such a woman would.

It made me feel good. Like a student who learned her lessons without even realizing it.

5 thoughts on “Speaking in Tongues

  1. heatherdaygilbert

    You grew up in WV?!! So did I! Love those WV colloquialisms. I’m moving back there very soon, and I’m kicking around a book series set there. I think WV is under-represented in fiction!

  2. I grew up in central Minnesota in a community that is known as a “melting pot” of different ethnic groups and even though we are a couple generations removed from those accents and dialects, every once in a while I hear one and it makes me smile. My mom’s family is mostly of Polish decent and many of my extended relatives still pronouce their th sound like t or d. Nort instead of north – dere instead of there. My husband picks on me when I slip into a Minnesota accent – I can’t help it!

  3. Mom

    Unfortunately the several series set in WV that I have tried, fed on the negative images of WV. 😦
    Where were you burning a brush pile that was safe? You are too close to woods except the front yard!

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