Monday, December 08, 2008


What happened here I don't claim to know for certain, but the Animal Crossing goof seems to highlight the need for care with dialects. Nobody will care if that word shows up in 50 Cent's game (at least, the people who play the game won't care). But if you take a cultural word or expression out of context, it can be confusing or misunderstood.

Used poorly, a dialect can accidentally depict characters as stick figures. If you dress a villain all in black, the audience is unlikely to perceive that character as having multiple dimensions. Likewise, if a Texan character says "I reckon", all sorts of stereotypes will be assumed.

Don't mistake my meaning - I'm not a fan of political correctness, and stereotypes usually contain some truth (sometimes a lot of truth). Case in point, as a Texan and Southerner, I often say things like "I figure". But I'd be careful when using such colloquialisms in a character's dialogue, because - regardless of truth - they are attached to many assumptions in common perception.

Write about what you know. That's one of the first and most important lessons of fiction. If you're not truly familiar with a dialect, then you probably shouldn't be using it. That seems to be how the Animal Crossing writer got in trouble.

1 comment:

  1. Playing through Gears of War 2 & I know a scriptwriter was employed to help with the story but when all's said & done(no pun intended) the dialect is spot on for the background of the characters. OK, that doesn't ammount to much dialogue but like you say, 'write what you know'.


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