In the course of writing three novels and some short stories, the sum total of work in the Scots tongue is one short story about 1000 words long. A pretty pathetic tally for a Scottish writer and McRenegade? Maybe. Maybe not.
Why so little? My writing tends to be very heavy on dialogue, almost to film script levels. I use it as the main way of putting across the story and revealing the characters. In real life you only know what people tell you, not what they think. That stays in your head no matter how many times the wife asks, “What are you thinking?” Unless it’s first person narrative…but I digress…which I do a lot.
So plenty of opportunities for some goods Scots patter. But is it always appropriate? If we stick to novels, thus far I’ve always held the view that places don’t really matter too much, as in my writing it’s all about the characters. Also the idea of doing geographical research to ensure accuracy seems…well a complete pain in the tits to be blunt, for no real gain in narrative or emotional impact. As for the nationality of the characters, for me people are people wherever you go. My view is therefore to make it as nonspecific as possible so everyone can relate and not feel like an outsider looking in. I make up place names, shy away from accents.
Or I have done. My last one, “For all is Vanity,” named places. Strathaven, Motherwell, London, place names, street descriptions…but I did keep the description and hence the afore mentioned chest pain to a minimum. There was even the odd foray into the Scottish accent. Why the change? There was no conscious decision (there seldom is). Looking back, the fact it was a book which aimed at really getting inside one character, it probably needed a bit more detail. But I was still conscious that it wasn’t a barrier to anyone’s understanding.
The book I’m currently writing is a different kettle of fish altogether with all previous notions ripped up and incinerated. With the working title “Firm”, it’s the story of two friends who originate from Bellshill, near Glasgow, though one has moved to America. One supports Celtic, the other Rangers and the old firm “enigma” is part of what the book is about, along with the stubborn legacy of sectarianism still remaining in central Scotland. So with all that the idea of not writing with the full accent didn’t enter my head. The result would have been as authentic as Tesco own brand Irn Bru.
Having recently read Irvine Welsh’s “Glue”, I was reminded how difficult it can be reading words which roll off the tongue effortlessly when spoken, but it got easier as I read on and made so much difference to getting the flavour of the characters. It is the same with writing it. Spelling the simplest words is a nightmare. Is it an ‘eh’ or an ‘ae’? But half way in I’m getting the hang of it. Sort of. I’m sure there will be plenty fixing required when I read it back. What my English proof reader will make of it…Sorry Steph. One concern I did have though was with all the Weegie patter going on would one character blend into the other. However the fact that one had lived in the States for a while meant I could soften his accent so that it was obvious who was speaking, rather than constant, said X, said Y, breaking up the flow. I’d like to say I planned that but…
As if that wasn’t enough they go on a road trip across America picking up assorted oddballs along the way. This throws up even more accents. New York, Texas, New Orleans…oh, and there’s an Irishman following. I’m going for it.
‘Firm’ should be out Spring – Summer 17.