An Exciting New Challenge

I haven’t blogged for ages because I’m busy with so many projects that I’m considering chucking it all in and moving into a cave in the middle of nowhere.

Nowhere would have to have a decent climate, of course. Not to mention a plentiful supply of fresh water and a banana tree or two. Oh, and vodka coffee and chocolate, a place to practice karate and… Okay, forget the middle of nowhere.

What’s the challenge?

English dialogue and the British Transport Police.

No, I’m not learning a new language (well, actually, I am – sort of), nor am I applying for a new job. I’m writing a screenplay.

It’s set in England and it starts with a crime which takes place on a train. Hence the BTP. This is the first time I’ve ever had to do any real ‘get out there and talk to people’ type research for my fiction.

So far, all of my fiction has been written about things I have first hand knowledge of,  so the research side has been more or less personal experience.

I’ve often interviewed people in the course of my non-fic writing but this is somehow different. I almost feel that I don’t have the right to go in there asking questions for the sake of a mere story. Like I’m wasting their time or something.

I haven’t made the call yet to set up an interview so I don’t even know if anyone will be willing to talk to me. I’ll be contacting the press office as soon as I get home on 4th January. That gives me plenty of time to get a good feel for the scene and to formulate my questions.

Scary and exciting at the same time. I’m one of those people who automatically feels guilty as soon as I see someone in a police uniform so I hope I don’t come across as a gibbering idiot. 😮

The other challenge is the English dialogue. Now, I know this is going to sound insane. English is my first language, after all (though you may find it hard to believe at times). But I’m talking British English dialogue.

There’s a reason why, up until now, all of my fiction has been based in South Africa or has featured South African characters in the main role. I can’t write authentic British English dialogue. Hell, I can’t even understand it most of the time.

Regional dialects aside, British English and South African English are worlds apart and I only really noticed that when I started writing dialogue.

In the first draft of Sanchin, Rico complained that Tristan ‘scaled’ his apple. Now, any South African would know that means he stole it. But when one of my British proofreaders read it she pointed out that the rest of the world would think he climbed up it.

Oops! Needless to say, in the final draft Rico complains that Tristan stole his apple. Then there’s the embarrassing moment my SA friend had in a London B&B regarding the word pants…  But that’s another story.

Even if the words we use are the same the sentence structure and the intonation are often completely different. I know intonation doesn’t come across on the page but it does effect my writing. The way I ‘hear’ my charaters speak influences the way I write their words.

You’d think I’d lived in England for long enough to have figured out the language by now but it’s not as simple as just understanding what’s being said. I need to learn how it’s said.

So, I think I’m going to have to invite a bunch of English friends out and really listen to what they’re saying, how they’re saying it and what they really mean.

Pub anyone?