The Writer They Call Tay (awanderingbard) wrote,
The Writer They Call Tay

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A formatting question

I've been writing an epic story, and within that story, a lot of the dialogue is taking place in French. I'm not a person who thinks that writing something in a foreign language and then immediately translating it into English is a good way to handle foreign dialogue, nor is throwing in a few words here and there, so for the most part, I've been using the translation convention of writing everything in English with the implication that the bilingual main character is translating as he goes.

However, my original plans to indicate someone speaking in French by using Italics is now not working so well, due to the sheer amount of French being spoken in some scenes. Basically any piece of dialogue is now in Italics, and Italics are distracting to read and draw attention to themselves. So, my question is, can I get away with starting off the dialogue with a 'he said, in French' tag and hoping my readers will assume the conversation continues in French until otherwise indicated? The problem with that is that there's no visual cue for when the languages change, which makes everything sort of fuzzy. And mixing the two options has a lack of consistency which might make it even more confusing.

If it were a oneshot, I wouldn't worry about it, but if I get it done, it's going to be several chapters with an increasing amount of French as it goes along.

So, here's basically what it looks like now:


"Hey, look, I'm talking in French," Character A said.

"That's good, since we're in France and it would make sense for us to speak French a lot," Character B replied.

"It's a good thing that English is so common, though," Character A said, thoughtfully. ""Because that means awanderingbard can get away with using more English than she would otherwise."

"Yes, but she still has to decide how good that character's grammar would be," Character B replied. "Without making them sound like Hercule Poirot."

Character A and Character B sat and contemplated why writing is hard sometimes, and smoked a cigarette, which they shouldn't because smoking is bad for you, but it's okay to do that on British television, even though in America, nobody smokes on TV except probably on HBO. They looked up as Character C approached.

"Oh, look, it's Character C," Character A said. "He doesn't speak French, so we better speak in English now. Hello, Character C, how are you today?"

"I'm fine," Character C said, with a smile. "It's nice that awanderingbard doesn't have to type all those Italic HTML tags when I talk."


I feel like all the Italics are really distracting and make the surrounding words hard to make out. So my other option would be something like this:


"Is she going to keep writing meta dialogue for us?" Character A asked, in French.

"It does seem like she will," Character B said. "I'm an established French character, so it's safe to assume that I'm responding in French, did you know that?"

"I assumed that, due to your established backstory that we know awanderingbard has spent more time than necessary on," Character A said. "But she's made it hard for herself by also making it clear that you do speak and understand English, so that might complicate things when we aren't using Italic tags."

"She probably should have set this story in England, but it's too late for that now," Character B said, regretfully. "Oh look, Character C's back." She switched to English to address him. "Hello, Character C. Still feeling okay?"

"Yeah, nothing much has changed for me," Character C said. "Hopefully it's clear that I am responding in English, since that would make the most sense."


So, any thoughts on this matter? Which do you prefer to read? Any other suggestions on how I could format it? Would it be better if my journal style didn't render Italics in a different colour?
Tags: misc./non-fic, writerly thoughts

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