Writing in dialect

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On Wednesday I was lucky enough to see Kazuo Ishiguro and David Mitchell in conversation at the Royal Festival Hall, London. They covered many writing-related topics and one which particularly interested me was the use of the vernacular when writing. Ishiguro commented that he thought Mitchell very bold in the way he totally embraced the language and dialects of his characters, something that he seemed more reticent to do.

I must admit that this is something I’ve always shied away from when writing, I’m not sure why, possibly due to a worry that I’ll get it wrong. However, in the recent NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, one beta reader suggested that I give my characters different voices as it helps keep them separate and adds interest. I read this woman’s story which was excellent, partly due to her ability to use dialect, although I noticed that a few other readers didn’t like this aspect of it, I think because they felt it slowed down the story as they didn’t understand some of the words. I’d love to know what others think.