Though my mother has been living in Michigan since she was eight, traces of the South still cling to her speech patterns, and consequently, have worked their way into mine. It never fails to surprise me that when I actually listen to the sound of my own voice, there’s a hint of Southern rounding out the edges of my otherwise flat Midwestern accent.
I think of Southern writers I admire, like William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Flannery O’Connor, and how their writing is fueled by the rhythms of the South. How skillfully they took the world as they heard it (and to a degree, I’m sure, spoke it) and put it into writing. Certainly, there’s no other way to hear Jason’s statement “Once a bitch always a bitch, what I say,” in The Sound and the Fury, or Maggie’s long speeches in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. (Why Southern writing is the most lyrically audible to my internal audio system is anybody’s guess, though I suppose it’s because the South snakes through so much of my existence.)
For example, though my days of intensive nicotine-fueled word sessions have become increasingly rare (to the point of being practically nonexistent), I remember that I read everything out loud obsessively, not only to catch awkward phrasing, but in an attempt to make each sentence flow into the next. I never was much interested in writing my autobiography, but even though I never starred in my writing, it always sounded just like me.
So, do you write like you talk? Does your writing carry the rhythm of your speech? Do you pick up the sounds of the life that surrounds you and put them into what you write? Or don’t you?
To push this a little further, what do you think about dialects in writing? Do you use them?