Now when I say contraction I’m speaking in the literary sense, meaning the shortening of a word or words. I’m not talking about going into labor here. I’m (see what I did there?) also talking about it, more specifically, as it applies to dialogue.
One of the things I notice, and am extremely self conscious of when I write, is my dialogue.
I pride myself on making damn sure the things coming out of my character’s mouths sound like something a real person would say. As a reader it is one of my greatest pet peeves to read dialogue that is supposedly coming out of someone who is street wise or a teenager that sounds like it is coming out of some Oxford scholar with how perfectly grammatically correct it is.
“You are a big pain in my ass.” Which sure granted someone might say but what’s more likely to come popping out of someone’s mouth…
“You’re a big pain in my ass!”
The over use of ‘you are’ versus ‘you’re’ in speech is the most notable but the use of ‘can not’, ‘do not’ and ‘will not’ are all equal opportunity offenders in this particular arena.
The quick, easy fix for this particular problem is pretty simple.
Do not fear the contraction.
As talkers, we love them and use them more than thirteen year old girls use glitter nail polish.
Can’t, don’t. Won’t and you’re (not to be confused with your) are our greatest friends and allies when trying to craft convincing and believable dialogue.
So to quickly recap:
A character who is an uneducated mechanic isn’t going to convincingly say, “I can not deal with you when you are like this, Mary and I will not deal with you when you are acting like a bitch anymore!” in an argument with his wife rather than “I can’t deal with you when you’re like this Mary, and I won’t deal with you when you’re acting like a bitch!”
Contractions are our friends. Well, except when giving birth, even then they’re sort of our buddies, but only because it means we aren’t going to be pregnant that much longer… but still at that point they’re more like a ‘frienemy’ than an actual friend. Anyways, you get my point!
Happy dialoguing friends!