Does anybody else do this? Please tell me I’m not the only reader alive who loves to speak out loud in an accent. Any old accent will do.
Despite how much I love this practice, it’s so stinkin’ hard to write a good accent!
My MG fantasy series is very multicultural, which means people (kids) are coming together from countries all over the world. Now, don’t you think it’d be just a little bit odd if they all had American accents/dialects? My MC’s best friend is British, another friend is Canadian, there’s a few kids from India, a few from France, Germany, Australia. Egads! All those accents! How do I manage? (Not easily, I can tell you).
A few things I’ve learned about writing accents from an American perspective.
1. Immerse yourself. For the past few days I’ve been on a Doctor Who, Sherlock, Jane Austen movie/show kick, studying and listening to the types of words and the syntax to be found in people from the U.K. I also listen to native German and French speakers, and a fair few of my patients are from India, so I hear their accents almost every day. They probably don’t even realize I’m studying them. You can’t just pop in a few “Ehs, Blimeys!, Reckons, and Brilliants” and make it completely believable as an accent, no matter which you’re going for. And there are tons of language channels on YouTube and such, so I have plenty of fodder for dialogue writing.
2. Don’t overdo the accent. Especially when the languages are the same. American English, Canadian English, British English… and all other Englishes in between… they have the same basic tenants of structure and form, so using a colloquialism from that country/township/state/territory, etc. every other word just makes it sound too forced. And it makes your character and yourself sound ignorant. “E’s got a bit o’ t’e dog’s ‘air about him, don’ ‘e?” Does that make sense to anyone besides me, since I wrote it? If you’re an accent/dialect master, then maybe it does. But it’s just too much for most readers.
3. Take into account everything about your character before you engage their accent. Are they well educated? Under educated? Rich? Poor? From the north, from the south? From the moon? We should have a good character sketch and background before we assign an accent, otherwise it’ll really look forced.
4. RESEARCH!! Nothing is better than a bit of good research. i’ve done my share, so I’m hoping that my accents appear natural and not forced. Once my manuscript gets to an editor, I’m hoping any little tidbits that’ve gone astray will be fixed in editing.
I’ve found a few good blogs and resources to help me through this quite difficult process.
There are lots of other places and sites that give great advice on how to write accents. Much better than my little blog. But it’s fun to talk aboot. Ha! See what I did there? 😛
Happy writing, all!
I shouldn’t be saying this – high treason, really – but I sometimes wonder if Americans aren’t fooled by our accent into detecting brilliance that may not really be there.
~ Stephen Fry
I used to say that whenever people heard my Southern accent, they always wanted to deduct 100 IQ points.
~ Jeff Foxworthy
Everyone seemed to be doing well except me and my career. And my accent was no helping me any.
~ Desi Arnaz