Friday, January 27, 2012

Country Don't Mean Dumb

I'm stealing my post title from Stephen King today (it's my favorite quote from the Stand miniseries, actually).

I write a lot of Texans. I'm a Texan, through and through. My partner is a fine mix of New Mexico, Colorado, and South Carolina. I have known a ton of southerners, a ton of rural folks, and more cowboys than I can shake a stick at.

I'm here to tell you, we may not speak with perfectly grammatically correct English. We have weird colloquialisms. I write my characters as they speak -- internal and spoken dialogue.

This is a stylistic choice, absolutely. I try to tone it down when it doesn't fit a publisher's house style, but I tend very much toward tight, tight third person. My boys don't worry about the difference between who and whom.

I've been asked, does that make them sound dumb?

Not to me. I'm writing characters that belong in a particular time and space, with the voices they come with -- educated, not educated, brilliant, average intellect, challenged.

Did you know there are 7 distinct Texan dialects? For instance, I grew up in east Texas, but I've lived in central Texas for 15 years. In my home town, I sound like Austin. Here in Austin, they say I sound like east Texas. West Texas doesn't sound like me at all. ;-)


There's also a difference between the Carolinas and Georgia. Western Colorado and Front Range. New Mexico and Arizona. Shreveport and NOLA.

I believe in letting the characters live in their skins, even when their skins don't sound like TV announcers.

Not only that, I love colloquialisms. I love that in the Ozarks, the answer to "What for?" can be "Cat fur, to make kitten britches." That in West Texas you can be plumb fool for a girl. That we're always fixin' to run somewhere. That we get mad as all get out or that it can come up a cloud outside. That the plural of y'all is all y'all (and only in Texas do you have all y'all ladies). That there is a particular brother in the family that is your bubba and that I'm Sister to my sister, Baby Girl, but Baby Girl to my daddy. That I have a Moma (not a momma) and a sister called Tootie.

I love that our new nephew, Boo, is 3 months old and has 15 nicknames, all of which will stick his whole life.

I love that, in our family, there's a pappy, a poppy, papaw, peepaw, grampy, nana, granny, mawmaw...

This is where my heart lives, in celebrating the voice that fills my ears whenever I go outside.

Is it dumb?

You'd be a damn fool to walk that road. ;-)

1 comment:

Ladycelt said...

Love, love, love this post! I'm a Houston (suburb) native myself, but East Texas roots run deep in my family...towns too small for anyone to recognize. My kids love to tease me that when we travel (and when we lived in other states while hubby was in the Navy), once we cross that Louisiana state line on the way home, my accent kicks in. Well, how else is anybody going to understand me??