I need to establish that my main character is uneducated through her dialogue. She cannot speak with my voice. I’m not sure how to do this except that she would say things like “ain’t” and “it don’t” and drop the final “g” off of words that end in “ing.” I don’t want to get too phony or contrived. I want her speech seem natural, but not be the same voice as I would speak with. Any suggestions?
The key to this is moderation. Of course, you need to include hints like you list above. Their occasional inclusion is absolutely fine. The trouble comes when they occur in every sentence–it becomes hard to read, even if it would occur in natural dialogue for that character.
The challenge then becomes to craft dialogue around those words so that they are used just enough and not too much. There are other, easier-on-the-eyes words that can relay the rougher nature of a character. Things like “yup” instead of “yes,” “I done gone” instead of “went,” etc. There’s no hard and fast rule, but I do try to stick to one dropped g or “ain’t” per paragraph (but that’s just my personal rule.” As I mentioned earlier, if you can capture the rhythm and syntax of the speech, it will go a long way without the classic triggers of dropped g’s and slang.
Hope this helps.
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