As I write this blog, I’m sitting in Amtrak’s Business Class car on the way to Alexandria, Virginia. At Thanksgiving, my husband and I voluntarily forfeit spending time with our children and grandchildren in favor of seeing them for Christmas. It’s one of those compromises that couples can expect upon tying the marriage knot.
While we’re in the D.C. area, we’ll take in a show at the Kennedy Center, enjoy many fine restaurants, get together with a couple friends, and frequent our favorite Smithsonian museums.
We prefer taking the train to driving, fighting traffic on I-95, and trying to find places to park. Riding the train is not the most efficient means of travel with its numerous stops along the way and slow crawls through congested areas, but it’s a pleasant, relaxing experience during which I can write, Carl can snooze, and we have access to a café car for snacks and drinks. We arrive at our destination rested instead of frazzled.
As we waited at the station this morning, I ran into people I knew and engaged in friendly conversations. The station master was most entertaining as she greeted us with her bright smile and regaled us with her comedic style. “She’s not from around these parts,” I quipped when I heard her characteristic Brooklyn accent, pronouncing Washington “Warshington” and car “caw.” I was reminded of the various dialects I’ve portrayed in my novels and the research necessary for presenting them as authentically as possible.
In Unrevealed, one of my characters, Zavie, is Jamaican. Through research, I learned as much as I could about the island and, in the process, discovered the native language is Patois. I found some colloquial phrases and peppered them in his words. Since another of my characters in this book is from Bedford, Virginia, I wanted her to speak with a southern accent. I accomplished this by writing some of her speech phonetically and using figures of speech that are characteristic of Virginians from the Piedmont area. My book, The Dark Room takes place in Hickory, North Carolina. Since my husband was raised in Lexington, North Carolina, I simply borrowed the dialect from my dear, departed mother-in-law.
Maria, a character in my third novel, I Want to Go Home, travels from Mexico to Washington, D.C. seeking shelter for herself and her two young children. I remembered enough Spanish from high school to give her broken English a Spanish element.
During every trip, whether short or long, whether flying, driving or riding the rails, I make it a practice to study people, including their patterns of speech. I never know when I might need a character for a new book.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com