Thursday, March 6, 2014

Baby Talk

Debra flashes back to an old Brady Bunch episode while contemplating 'child speak' in her story.

"Baby talk, baby talk, it's a wonder you can walk." If you're familiar with the Brady Bunch (I still watch with rapt attention if a rerun comes on.) you'll recognize the line which reduced Cindy to tears and led to a black eye for Peter when he stepped in to defend her.

The reason the phrase has been running through my mind is I've been working on the second round of edits for Family Secrets. The hero of the story, Chase, has twin four-year-olds who figure prominently in the story, so there's a fair amount of 'speaking parts' for the girls. When I wrote the first draft, I used what I thought of as authentic phrasing for the kids. I have grammatical errors, issues with tense, dropped syllables, and mispronunciations. However, during edits, it was requested the dialogue be written correctly, letting the reader to imagine the 'kid speak' for herself.

I was asked to do something similar in This Feels Like Home, but it was only a line or two of dialogue, and I thought it was a personal preference of the editor (not my usual one) I was working with. I've since learned the request came from the senior editors of the lines, and is the recommended 'policy' at TWRP now. Which makes sense, so that all of the lines will be consistent.

At first I was a bit bummed about this. I thought the accurate dialogue added a bit of charm to the story, plus helped distinguish one twin from another, as each made particular errors. However, after a read-through last night, I realized the girls were still cute and charming, and it was actually easier to stay in the flow of the story without the distraction of having to figure out what was supposed to be said. (This is why editors are so valuable and good ones' advice should always be heeded.)

I don't know if I'll ever have another story with kids in it, but if I do, I'm just going to write their conversations 'normally', and go from there.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


P.S. The second round of edits has been turned in for Family Secrets and will now head to the copy editing department. Yay!


  1. In this case, I tend to agree with you rather than with TWRP policy, Debra. That's with the proviso that it's easy for the reader to decipher what is being said, of course. We're always told our characters' speech and phrasing should sound realistic, and children don't talk like adults, so I don't see any harm in having them make grammatical errors etc. It's what children do!

  2. I have read discussions on this topic, Debra. I still recall a scene from a Diana Gabaldon book where a Chinese sailor is giving Claire advice on acupuncture for Jaime's sea sickness. I never figured out what he was saying, even after reading it aloud multiple times. It was a mood killer. I dislike having to stop to discern a special speech.

    It is hard to find wording that is 100% translatable to every readers, so TWRP is going for the least common denominator.

    Right or wrong is uncertain to me. This will change highlander historicals, for sure!

  3. It's funny because as I was reading your post I was thinking "No! Make them sound like kids!" But you're right, dialect can often pull the reader out of the story. Oftentimes, it's better to show the child's personality.

  4. For me, in this particular story, it worked out okay. In the end, I didn't mind making the changes.

    I read an excerpt from another author once in which not only kid speak was used, but those words were in italics. The combination was very distracting.

    I think regional dialect/historic language is an entirely different story. In one of the vampire series I read, I certainly love the brogue of the Scottsmen!