Feedback Needed on Excerpt Dialogue

My protagonist, Richard, the detective, just slammed a suspect down on the ground after a chase through the ghetto. He’s trying to question him. The guy is Jamaican. He speaks primarily patois. What I need to know is whether or not I have Americanized the language enough for the average person to understand enough of what happened without feeling too alienated. I want it to be authentic. It won’t spoil the plot to read it.


“Bumbo! Wah di rass, mon!” the man sputtered, through gasping breaths.

“Don’t give me that patois shit,” Richard panted. “I know you’ve been in this country at least ten years.”

“Yuh got di wrong guy, mon.”

“Now, how do you know that when you haven’t heard what I have to say?” Richard didn’t wait for an answer. “You can start by telling me what you were doin in Melbourne July 4th, 2005. Tropical Border House Inn.”

“Long time ago, too nuff, too nuff.”

“You’re going to think I’m messin in your business if you don’t start talkin.”

“Mi cannot breath, lemme up.”

“Can you stay in one place?”

“I and I done nuh ting wrong.”

“How do you say, ‘badman ting?’”

“No sah, no sah. Ten year ago mi a young man makin love.”

“How’d that go?” Richard asked. He eased up on his back just a bit and released his head roughly, yanking off hair as he did. “Tell me about Maria. You remember her? Latina girl married to former mayor Timothy Morrison? Did she piss you off? Did she dump you? Did she tell you she couldn’t fuck you anymore so you decided to make sure she couldn’t fuck anybody? Did you stab her to death, or did she accidentally fall on your knife?”

The man heaved, “Yuh a chat bagga nonsense. Easy nuh. Lemme up.”

“I’m chill man, you do the talkin.” Richard eased off Jason’s back and released his left arm. They sat up in the midst of the field, knees up, with the sun beating down, wiping away the sweat and the sand and catching their breath.

“Sumady Murda. Yuh no mi sah, no sah. Hol it dung, mon. Mi and mi dupes en gayls meet at Firestone Club, pretty gyals from di Leisure Lagoon, pretty gyals. She give mi di hotel and di day. Mi dunno she married. She wonna mi eat unda sheet. She wanna cock it up pan me. I and I to di hotel on di day. She bring di babies and givem candies. Pum pum tun up. Rude gayl jus wanna have good times. Timothy Morrison, dat one be di ball an chain. And she all broughtupsy. She say big tings a gwaan. No woman, no cry. Put di babies en di car. I and I come home di mornin. See it pan di news, pan di televsion.”

“So you just met and screwed? Consoled her. With the kids there?”

“Awoah! Di lil babe an di boy. Jus di boy watch cartoons, eat di candy. Di babe sleeping, Nuh one hour.”

“You couldn’t come forward, tell what you knew?”

“Look a mi, mon, an sit en di white mon prison? Yuh gotta Jamaican mon, no mi suh. I and I nuh know he di brinks, Morrison, till mi read en di papers. Mi done no ting wrong cept by di mon, nuh by mi.”

“Jason Pauly, you don’t run no more,” Richard said while standing. He stuffed his hand in his pocket and relaxed his fist. “You stay around. If you do nuh ting wrong, you’ll be okay, but don’t run.” He brushed the dirt from his jeans, “I will find you, mother fucka” he added. He walked away leaving the man sitting in the sand.





24 thoughts on “Feedback Needed on Excerpt Dialogue

  1. Sounds like a fun story. For my tastes, it’s a little thick. You can start off that way at first, and ease off gradually. Then the balance becomes easier to read. Once the accent is planted in my skull I tend to hear it with more subtle reminders.

    I wasn’t missing the points, it’s just hard to read. I hope that helps.

    • I am thinking of dropping the Bumbo!, and going straight to What the fuck? in Americanized English. Then thinning the long paragraph with more Americanized words for clarity. I think after ten years he would sound more American anyway. I want it authentic, but this is overkill.

  2. A bit too heavy for me. I think too much tends to draw attention to the patois rather than the substance of the encounter. I’d definitely thin it down as you are now thinking. A little dialect goes a long way; too much distracts from the action.

    • Thanks Patrick. I thought about the German Characters in your book after I wrote this. I went back and took out the patois phrases but left a tad of the dialect. Also cut out the thick paragraphs. Still don’t know if it detracts too much from the action. Can I email?

  3. I would not Americanize the patios more. Nothing bothers me more than ungenuine accents. I live in Miami, Florida USA so used to Jamaican, Haitian and Spanish accent. Most readers should be able to fill gaps of word understanding using context clues. The patios adds color to text. If accent not authentic I stop and just throw book in trash. Could you imagine reading Mark Twain “Tom Sawyer” without unique vocab, slang and speech patterns of the Old South ? It is the reader that is to adjust, not the author.

    • I could hear where they were coming from on part of it. I think I might have been to heavy on some of the sexual jargon Jamaican stuff. I also had a very thick paragraph that needed to be broken down. I have rewritten it and would be very interested in your opinion of it now. And thanks for commenting! What do you think? I’ll try to post it here, but it’s a long stream now. Don’t know how this will work. You may have to return to the page to see it. Never mind. I tried it but it wouldn’t format. Do you have an email where I could send it?

  4. Once I got the hang of the accent then it was fine but I do agree with the others, I think it was the long paragraph that was just a bit too much and I found myself skipping to the next bit hoping that I could make sense of it without reading it. Sorry 😦 Sounds like a cracking story though and I can’t wait to read more 🙂

    • Thanks Jade. I rewrote it leaving out the strong sexual colloquialisms and keeping a bit of dialect for authenticity. Also broke down the longer paragraphs, which didn’t make sense because they were so out of breath. I appreciate the feedback. I forget that most people don’t live in an area like Orlando where it is so very culturally diverse. When you live among these people it is easier to understand them.

      • It is and I guess that’s why it is great to do what you did and ask for feedback – otherwise if you kept it to what you are used to then anyone outside of a certain area would struggle with it, which is not good at all. 🙂 It is a similar thing with being from the UK and using UKisms. Sometimes I know that they are not understood by other languages and cultures and so I have to try to make sure that I am using something universal so that the interpretation isn’t loss. I thought that the language was fascinating though and I loved the pace of it. As I said, can’t wait to read more!

    • Thanks Rosie. I cut the longer paragraphs and trimmed down the heavy sexual colloquialisms. Don’t want anyone slogging 😀 or loosing the storyline!

    • Explained that in the beginning. Florida is like that, sand every place that other places has dirt. And Richard had chased him through the hood, across a ball field, and slammed his face into the sand after catching him.

    • Thanks for your interest and opinions though. Guess i could have given more details about the story…I was concerned about the dialogue mostly. I’ve rewritten it keeping the accent but losing some of the heavy sexual Jamaican colloquialisms. Also broke down the long paragraphs into banter, since they are supposed to be out of breath.

  5. I’ll be the lone wolf in the wilderness. I had no problem with it and prefer that dialog be natural to the characters rather than made easier for the reader. That’s my reader opinion. My writer opinion is that you shouldn’t make reading difficult for your readers and based on the comments here the dialog appears too difficult for most.

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