1. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    Accents

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MissPomegranate, Sep 20, 2010.

    Two characters of mine have European accents; Irish and English. Another character of mine has a slight Boston/New England-ish accent. My question is...how do you write accents?

    For the New England accent, it only comes out when he's mad. Should I distinguish the change in the dialogue, or should I just state he's speaking differently? Also, how would one write the accent if it was to be changed in dialogue?

    As for the European accents, I've established the character's speak in the accents, but I feel like I should add something to their dialogue so the reader doesn't forget. Is there anything I could add to make a character sound more British, or should I just write it as I do everyone else and hope the reader remembers?

    Thank you for your time!
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Don't constantly spell out the phonetic differences. Just bring up different phrasings of things. Stuff like "loo", "bonkers," etc.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    British you could use UK spelling etc Where abouts in the UK are they from that effects the accent used? It can also be shown by punctuation but an American may just think you can't punctuate lol Ireland maybe just throw in a word or two that maybe used in Ireland but not elsewhere.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Use uniform spelling and punctuation in your writing. Don't change the spelling of words spoken by an Englishman or an American.

    And don't try to render an accent phonetically, for the most part. You might get away with the occasional, "Oh lawd!" from an American from Mississippi, but if you try to sound out three long sentences that way, you'll just annoy the reader.

    Instead of phonetics, work with dialect, which is localized word choices or ordering of words and phrases. Whereas a midwesterner might say, "It looks like a storm's a-coming," someone on the Maine coast might say, "Big blow's rolling in." Yoda's inversion of object to the beginning of sentences is a characteristic dialect element.
     
  5. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    Thank you! I'll try adding some dialect instead of trying to write out the accents.

    ...on that note, does anyone know some examples of New England, British, or Irish phrases?
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    British I can do and the odd Irish - where in Britain and where in Ireland?
     
  7. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    Southern England, around the London area for British. Dublin for the Irish accent.

    Thank you!
     
  8. Bodiam
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    Bodiam Member

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    Like the other replies here, I would wonder what English accents you have in mind. I would have suggested using English spelling but Cogito is right that you should keep to US English spelling.

    As an Englishman I can tell you that accents are a mindfield here but the language is the same. Different parts of the country can refer to others as 'pet', 'love', 'mate', 'fella' etc. These can be region specific or broadly nationwide. The English regions have phrases that are historically local but you would need to live there to understand them and written coldly they could be unintelligible to anyone who does not understand the meaning. I would also suggest you avoid creating a cliched accent like cokney (Dick Van Dyke in bedknobs and Broomsticks). Scotland has more than one accent and so does Ireland with people from Northern Ireland having very distinctive accents. I would say accents in these lands is largely down to how things are said and not what is said.

    If you just want someone who is English then perhaps you could research the BBC websites for downloadable material (some stuff is for UK only). Perhaps you could develop English and Irish characteristics or eccentricities in your characters. For example your English character may drive a classic old British car.
    Bodiam

    Well, I live in Sheffield (Yorkshire) but lived just south of London until I was in my 20's and still have a 'southern' accent. Obvious to all who know and meet me but its still all the same in written form. (not sure I am helpful really other than to suggest caution with English accents).
     
  9. Joules03
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    Joules03 Senior Member

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    Whose POV is the book from? Could you occasionally have the main character respond to the accents? Like your British person could say something, and the main character silently repeats the word to his or herself, liking the sound of it or wishing they could speak like that - or even finding themselves mimicking the accent and hoping nobody noticed.

    For your character that only has the accent when he's mad, you could add on to the dialogue tag. ..." he said, the heat in his voice making his accent come out.

    or something like that
     
  10. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    Thank you for your help! I'll try watching some BBC (I just found out I get that channel!) to pick up on some terms I could use for the Englishman.

    It's 3rd person limited, so I can also have the MC making a few comments about their accents too.

    Thanks again!
     
  11. makdadsb
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    makdadsb Member

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    For the guy with the New England accent, definitely don't tell the reader he's speaking with the accent. You might try something like this:

    "Where the heck is the car?"
    "Cah?"

    That, and throw in a "wicked cool" and you got your New Englander.
     

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