1. Chachi Bobinks
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    Chachi Bobinks Senior Member

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    Any anglophiles out there? Help! :(

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Chachi Bobinks, May 6, 2011.

    I'm having trouble getting back into the flow of writing british characters that actually sound british. My Harry Potter days are too far behind me! I'm afraid that since I'm rusty, he is going to sound like a Texan trying to write something smart but screws it up instead.

    Please, tell me if I'm messing this one up. The setting is that my MC has just met Johnny Jacobs after she nearly falls and he scoops her up and saves her. She makes a joke about how she makes all of her friends by making them save her from smashing her face. She holds out her hand and introduces herself, and then this happens:


    He smiled. Smirked, actually. “Yes. Pleased to meet you.” As he withdrew his hand, he folded his arms over his chest. “Absolutely not kidding about the life debt part, by the by. We might be en route to a tragic friendship that involves you nearly dying all the time but if you’re to play that game, you’re going to build up quite the debt there, young lady.”

    “What’s new?” I grumbled in reply with a shrug. “Just keeping the status quo.”

    “Status quo? Is the norm around here this bloody awful show of beautiful women taking men out with a single tumble?” He brought a hand up to stroke his chin. “…actually, I hear that’s how William met Kate, stumbling about daftly. Something about daft designer shoes or some sort. Or was that how the Queen met Philip…?”
     
  2. Jonp
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    Jonp Senior Member

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    Well, being English, I know for a fact that no one actually says "bloody awful show", nor do we talk about the royal family all the time.

    I'd recommend watching a few recent british sitcoms, they should give you more of an indication of how we talk.
     
  3. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    PLEASE don't write stereotypical characters. Some years ago I wrote about an Irish character who never drank and hated pubs. Why not? He was the most un-Irish Irish I have ever written about.

    But seriously....... I don't like writing national sterotypes. I (as a Norwegian) think other people's portrayals of Norwegians are totally wrong.
     
  4. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    *winces at the Royal reference* Ouch. :p

    Please, for the sake of all British people ever, don't write them like that. :p

    However, what they say about us and tea is totally true.

    Although, wait, dude, you mentioned "the status quo" twice without making a reference? :p
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    To me, this is a lot like writing foul language - a little goes a long way. What you've written above is a charicature of English speech (and a painful one at that). Sprinkle, don't drench.
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Oh that's painful...

    British people do not talk like that. Try watching some British TV shows, films, or just talking to some British people... (also, you need to be more specific than "British". Where abouts is this character from?)
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You've been watching Hugh Grant movies, haven't you? This is a caricature of upper-class public school-twit-speak (i.e. private school).

    "Absolutely not kidding about the life debt part, by the by.
    Not 'by the by'. Probably 'by the way'.

    We might be en route to a tragic friendship that involves you nearly dying all the time but if you’re to play that game, you’re going to build up quite the debt there, young lady."

    Not 'young lady'. More like 'my girl'. You are hovering between put-on joke pompous and not being pompous on purpose like Tim-nice-but-dim. Lots of upper-middle-class men put on cockney accents or drawl or swear too much when they are trying to pick up a girl, or be funny. Yes, very annoying, I know. They say 'bloody awful' as well, although not 'bloody awful show' if they are under 70. Younger men must have in-phrases that I don't know any longer, since I've been away from the UK and that scene for so long. There is a quite specific corpus of upper class slang that boys hone at school.

    Actually, there are a few people I know (mostly over 60) who do talk vaguely like that. But they'd never make the Royal Family mention.
     
  8. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, the dialogue does sound very upper-class. There's this stereotype about Englishmen that they all speak well-educated, formal English, but depending on class and dialect, it may be exactly the opposite. Dialects also vary wildly between different parts of the UK.

    So your first question should be, what social class and part of the country do your British characters belong to? Then find an example of something written in that style, and try to imitate it. Or do it the other way around: find a good sample and let it decide your characters' background.
     
  9. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Please..no.

    Why do they need to sound British? Does it add to the story, does it play a main part?
    If I was writing an American, I would probably write them as normal people, I wouldn't concentrate on them sounding 'American'. I've spoken to Americans here and their way of typing is no different from mine.

    Maybe she could mention he sounded British, but please don't do the stereotypical dialogue.
    Just see us as no different from you..
     
  10. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    This made me cringe. That's not how British people talk.

    Is it vital that your character is British? If not, I'd change it your own nationality.

    Otherwise I agree with the other posters. You need to research how British people really talk (TV shows, films, book, actual British people etc.). Also, where in Britain are they from? This will play a part in their dialect.
     
  11. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    This is the most important point made on this thread. For example, I'm Scottish, living in the north of England, and both are in the UK but are so different, and different again from southern accents. Note I wrote accents.
     
  12. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    I'd suggest you consider your target audience. If you are writing a story about British characters, targeted to an American audience, then you should write your Brit Characters in the way that Americans "THINK" Brits sound. Your typical American forms his opinion on Brits based on what they see in World War II movies, Monty Python movies and Britcom Television series. If you write your Brit characters according to the American POV, your target readers will accept it hook, line and sinker.

    Of course, the American British stereotype would never fly with actual Brits. If your target audience are the actual British themselves, I'd suggest doing your research by watching the BBC programs, Drama, crime mystery and the actual BBC news reporting on real people, real events and real news (not just Monty Python and Britcoms). You'll quickly learn that the English, Scots and Irish are three peoples separated by a common language. Not only are there regional dialects, but you should also learn the language differences between Posh and Common (and in some cases the "Dead Common")...not to mention the middle class vocabulary (who can masquerade as either upper class or working class, as it benefits their situation).

    Also, if you are writing British Characters for consumption by the British market, and your characters refer to the Americans in dialog, you'll probably need to keep in mind that many actual Brits stereotype Yanks as larger than life, loud, obnoxious, trigger happy, spoiled, rich cowboys armed with machine guns, who labor under the delusion that the entire world yearns to become more "American" in their way of life. As derogatory and insulting as such a stereotype actually is, it remains spooky in its accuracy.
     
  13. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    :confused: Not even the spoffs speak so posh. The only convincing word you've used is "daft" - but even that doesn't feel right. "Something daft about designer shoes" feels more natural but others may disagree with me. Also, I don't think I've heard anyone say "daftly". "Bloody awful" doesn't really fit the sentence. I don't understand the need for the royal family reference.

    Your best bet at the moment would be to write his dialogue in a natural way, rather than focusing on the dialect, and just mention his nationality somewhere until you understand it better. I'd suggest watching TV shows/films with British actors/actresses -- not American actors playing Brits as they screw it up completely -- to get a better feel for how Brits speak. Plus, you haven't told us where the character is from? Britain consists of three countries and just one of those countries is made up of people speaking with different accents and on top of this you'll find each region within each country has it's own local dialect. Eg: someone in Aberdeen speaks differently from someone in Glasgow even though they only live an hour and a half away from each other.
     
  14. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    And half of the time, the readers won't even know what a certain slang words mean, if your looking to be accurate with dialect and anyway, the whole accent thing always looks forced imo. I agree with this post completely. Just write them as you would with a normal character, but mention they sounded British. Simple.
     
  15. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I take offense at this. I never carry a machine gun. I rely on semi-automatic weapons, only.
     
  16. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Three.
     
  17. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cheers. I was thinking of the UK.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry to say, the cringe/wince factor was great for me, too, in reading that excerpt... i've spent a goodly amount of time in england and have been reading contemporary british fiction and enjoying british films all my long life, so can easily tell the good from the poor/bad/awful and i'm afraid that falls into the least good category...

    but don't let all the negative reviews here discourage you... there are some american authors who do an admirable job of 'writing british' and there's no law that says you can't join their ranks, with enough study and hard work...

    i applaud your wisdom and bravery in subjecting your work to a public viewing...

    love and consoling hugs, maia
     
  19. Chachi Bobinks
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    Chachi Bobinks Senior Member

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    See, you go one afternoon not stalking the boards and you come back to a poopstorm! And, like, twelve replies. Good golly!

    In all seriousness though, I am sooo sorry if I offended everyone. :S I didn't realize I was doing anything stereotypical. I'm certainly not trying to make the actualization of a British stereotype here... I said nothing about tea, I didn't ask God to save anyone, no one is standoffish and rude and overly proud and looks like Colin Firth when they shouldn't, and we forgot our red riding jackets at home. :p However, those can certainly be added if need be...

    ...just kidding! Gotta try to keep it lighthearted!

    Now, I'm going to try to address every concern (and keep the lit torches and pitchforks at bay) but forgive me if I miss something!

    Yes, he has to be British. Has to. It's not being done to be evil or insulting or because I'm American and we feel like we need to put a Brit everywhere. Yes, I do chick lit but I'm not that bad! If I made him American, I would have to redo the entire story. If I made him, like, Egyptian or something else, I'd have to do a whole hell of a lot of research on a country I really don't care about. :p I chose England because that is a country I do know at least something or another about and he has to be a foreigner.

    Yes, he is upper class. Very much so. And no, this isn't for Gary Stu-ism purposes... this guy is actually an asshole and in the short amount of time that he will be in my story, he's a useless ass. I was trying (in my own terrible 'someone-take-the-computer-away-from-this-child' way) to make him sound upper crest. Yes, he would have gone to a boarding school in a mountain somewhere. Or a valley, where ever they stick them. That actually is part of his character and a very important one, too. I'm thinking that he would be from a busy part of the area like London. I was actually trying to make him sound rich and snobbish. Please don't think I didn't do any research at all... I'm actually embarrassed to admit that I *did* and this is the result of it. :\ So any advice about making him sound rich and la-ti-da without it being so cringe worthy is definitely welcome!

    On the note of using any slang at all, though - here in the USA, people from different parts speak completely differently. I use words that people in the North probably wouldn't use. Like 'reckon'. Oh yes, I fulfill my stereotype by saying 'reckon' all the time. :p My characters are set in Louisiana where the dialect and slang is also different. I think that I would be doing more of a disservice to make everyone use the same slang and vocabulary than I would if I were to try my best shot and come to a place full of experts to say "Ok, what do I do?" I understand the point that I should just write everything generic and plain but really? Why in the world would that be a better option than to ask people for help? Sounds like the lazy way out of it and I refuse to let dialog suffer just to save myself time and effort. I am a very dialog heavy writer. It doesn't work that way for me. :(

    You wanna hear something funny? 'By the by' wasn't something I said to try to sound English. That's actually something from where I'm from. I accidentally slipped in my own slang. Whoops. So for the person who corrected that, don't worry. I needed to change that out of what we say anyway, lol.

    SOOOOO... if I'm not going to die on a firing range somewhere, please accept my apologies to the entire U.K. and help me. I posted this here because I -knew- it was crap and sounded awful and that I was having problems with this exact thing. When you give me constructive criticism for it not working, you're not telling me anything I didn't already know. So please don't be upset. I really didn't mean to piss anyone off and despite my jokes, I feel awful. :(
     
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  20. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    You pretty much just asked, "am I messing this up?" and that was the response. :p
     
  21. Chachi Bobinks
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    Chachi Bobinks Senior Member

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    Oh yes. Oh yes, I know. :p The sheer volume of it is what threw me off! But hopefully my extremely long reply gave the clarification you guys were looking for. Just, wowzer. I have felt the heat of the ever-living coals and have been successfully raked over them! I see the light! Hallelujah! *choirs sing, clap, dance, etc* ;)
     
  22. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    He he. Well, I hear that the bloody wedding was even making repetitive annoying news even in the US, so I guess it should be forgiven that the biggest dose of Englishness you've got lately has been from such an awful source. Give it a month and soak up some actual British culture and maybe it'll work better. :p

    If you want the guy to seem like a jerk then give him, like, a cool, funny daughter who's still British but doesn't do all the annoying stuff. It'll prove you know English people aren't all toffs, and give you a chance to exercise two different voices.

    (Don't make her talk like me - just in that sentence I used "jerk" and ", like," which are too American for me to pass completely as untainted by American culture :p)
     
  23. Chachi Bobinks
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    Chachi Bobinks Senior Member

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    And to be perfectly honest, that is why that got a mention in his part of the story. I was seriously writing that while watching the royal wedding coverage - no joke. And it's meant to be snarky. Oh, failure. Fail fail fail!

    He's too young for a cool daughter. But he does have a relative traveling with him who could totally be the cool non-toff (wtf is a toff?!) person?

    OH, MISSED ONE.

    'The status quo' - this is a itty bitty chunk of a 10,000 word story. This small of a slice isn't going to explain everything that happened in the 8-something-thousand words that came before it. I included only this part because this is the only dialog he has for the next 5 chapters or so. I didn't feel that it was necessary to include the part that explains what happened since I only needed help on this one part. Does that make sense?
     
  24. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    A toff is a rich, posh person. If you need examples of what that means in a British sense, take a look at our current Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer. They're pretty much archtypical toffs.

    I would suggest, if you want it to seem accurate, immerse yourself in British culture. I.e. film, television, and also news (which is particularly useful for a current affairs awareness). That's really the best way to get it right, as I'm guessing you can't easily go to Britain.
     
  25. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Toffs = the kinda upper class person you're talking about. Public school, Oxbridge, probably knows David Cameron. :p

    (Oh, you called it "upper crest" in an earlier post - it's "upper crust" or, more formally, class)

    Edit:

    Dude, I was talking about the band, Status Quo. :p
     

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