Every historical author has to make a decision on how they are going to handle dialect. For me, that means the 1200s in Scotland for my Clan Grant Series. For most of my characters, that would mean I should write in Gaelic which I don’t speak or understand, and I doubt many of my readers do either.
So I write in English and move to step 2 on the decision ladder…how much dialect do I throw in there? If you have read my Clan Grant Series, you know that I have changed as my series has progressed. I used what I considered (as a reader) to be heavy dialect in my first novel, but “lightened” it with every successive book. Why? Because I don’t want to ever lose a reader due to my use of dialect.
Since I was born in the US, my Scottish dialect is limited, and I have discovered that I am more concerned with not giving the dialect justice and respect. I do not want to make mistakes, and I am sure I have somewhere in my six novels. I apologize if this offends anyone. I do try my best: I have read many other authors, have hired historical editors, but still I find myself unsure.
And the truth is that even the experts are unsure about some things. How much was written in the medieval period? And according to one of my experts, the 1200s in Scotland was such a calm period that little is written about it, thus we have little guidance.
So I resort to what I think will be the least offensive to all. Yes, I have always received reviews that critique my use of language, but I am sure I always will. Some say I use too much dialect, some say not enough, some say incorrectly. One said I used a completely wrong word-something never used in the UK. Yet according to my research in etymology, it was used in the early 1300s in Scotland, so I thought that was close enough for the 1260s. True, it may not be used in present day UK, but it was back then. Of course, one can never please everyone.
But what I hope comes across in my writing is how much I love the country and the history of Scotland. I try to bring readers to another world for a time, to enjoy, to fantasize, and to fall in love.