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by Barbara Wood last modified Apr 29, 2018 20:54

When writing about a specific locale – whether a city or a country – it is wise to do your homework and make sure your characters engage in dialogue that suits the area.  Local jargon, slang and idioms, for sure, (Texans say, “Boy howdy,” New Yorkers do not) but also topics of conversations.  For example, if your characters live in Southern California they must always bring up two subjects first: traffic, and the smog.  Oh, you can touch upon minor incidentals such as brush fires or mudslides or the heat or the rising/falling costs of houses, or “Did you feel that earthquake last night?”  But at any gathering or just meeting a friend for lunch, everyone has to comment first on his or her experience on the roads getting to the party or restaurant or whatever, and then they have to weigh in on the day’s air quality.  Continue . . .

As soon as you sit down in the restaurant booth, before you can even order a drink, you have to start in on how the 215 had been a parking lot and that the off ramp at Central Avenue had been blocked off for construction and the GPS app on your cell phone hadn’t provided an acceptable alternate route. (And of course it’s a competition with everyone topping everyone else: “Well, I just drove in from Hollywood and let me tell you …..”).   When the traffic has been sorted, you move on to the bad air, declaring that you couldn’t see the “Big C” on Box Springs Mountain for the smog, (the “Big C” is reportedly the world's largest poured-concrete block letter, by the way).  When discussing poor air quality, folks in Riverside always comment on that big white letter up there without saying exactly why they are looking for it, but if you can’t see it then the air is bad, and then you have to go on to complain that it isn’t even OUR smog because it’s all blown inland from Los Angeles.  Only after this has all been discussed and dissected and agreed upon, may you allow your characters to order drinks and tortilla chips and move on to other topics such as the presidential election or the possibility of life on Mars.
     What are conversational requirements where YOU live?

 

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