I learned how to write cockney for this book. I was pretty proud of myself. I don’t know why. This is how I waste time sometimes, teaching myself a new dialect.
I say it was a waste of time because one of the first things my editor said was get rid of it. Well, get rid of most of it. I was like but, but I learned cockney so that I could write something authentic, even if it’s only a Regency romance novel.
So I got rid of a lot of it, grumbling as I did so. I have a method of writing foreign languages because they tend to pop up in my writing often. I write the language without giving the reader a literal translation. I let what happens or is said to the characters reveal itself in the response the character has. I don’t expect the reader to know what was said but I don’t dumb down to the reader either. I figure with enough cues a semi-alert reader can pick up on the meaning.
Take this scene from Laughing Through My Tears. Iris, a lady Margo works with at the Church, sees Mark for the first time.
Iris leans against me. Her attention is now occupied with Mark.
“Quien es, hija?” She asks in awe. I really can’t impress enough how gorgeous he is.
“Just a guy I know.”
“Bonito gordo, niña. No,” she corrects herself. “Bonito en todo!” She’s not wrong there. It’s hard to pick what’s more perfect on him. When he’s finished, he walks back to me and leads me away from her.
Hopefully you got that Iris is impressed by Mark, particularly on his physical attributes. Some of my friends pushed back on me calling him gordo when the intent is really beautiful body but gordo is a term of endearment as well so that’s what I went for. But I feel regardless of that nuance the meaning comes across. Also the first line Iris says to Margo, I don’t translate. You hopefully got that she’s asking who he is from how Margo answers Iris.
I don’t want to say ‘bonito en todo.’ Then translate with words that say and that meant beautiful all over or all around. You lose the poetry of the language, both languages, when you get literal like that. Better to have Margo say yeah he’s hot or whatever and the reader gets that Iris is insinuating as much and Margo is agreeing.
So I wrote my cockney scenes like the one above and my editor was like nope, no way. She didn’t want to deal with introduction of a foreign dialect that might slow down the reading. Listening to advice, I toned it down. I feel disingenuous doing so but I did.
This time around I wanted to listen to what the group felt and not just thumb my nose at advice and what might sell better. Truth is maybe that’s the way I should be writing foreign languages. But I can say it was more fun when I had the dialect so right on that even I was going back over the words thinking WTH does that mean. I had a rules list to make sure I hadn’t screwed up the intent.
So if you’re like me and feel language is a dance and not a literal translation, forgive me my milktoast cockney in this book. It’s a little dumbed down. Next time I’ll leave you scratching your head over what was said but this time I’m trying to go mainstream.