Continuing the theme of debut novels, I’m delighted Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, is enjoying much success. Not only is it a hugely successful book but the recent film adaptation made $166 million at the box office in the USA. Skeeter, a young 1960s Missippissi woman collects the stories of black maids and the hardships they routinely suffer, in a bid to become a published writer. The narrative breaks one of Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing, in that regional accents are not used sparingly. As a reader, it’s a challenge to ‘tune into’ the patterns and sounds of the American south, but worth the effort. Aibileen’s voice is particularly strong, showing her maternal side, and the relationship with Mae Mobley, the child of her white employer.
Another debut novel that breaks the same rule about using dialects is The Tin Kin by Eleanor Thom. Set in 1950s Scotland, a gypsy called Jock is murdered and the story shows the consequences for his family and later generations. Some of the alternating narratives are in full dialect, giving characters like ‘Auld Betsy’ the grandmother a distinctive voice.
In my manuscript Manipulation, I have a character with a Scottish accent. Bearing in mind the success of the above novels, I can but hope that Elmore Leonard’s rules are there to be broken.
To read more about Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing click here.