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  1. Hexapod
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    Hexapod New Member

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    Character accents,

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Hexapod, Feb 13, 2009.

    I hope this is the right forum to post this. I need some opinions on one of my characters. Since I'm writing a sci-fi novel I have a made up accent for one of my characters. At the moment I'm presenting this characters accent by actually writing (in dialogs) the way he would pronounce his words. The problem is that reading his accent breaks the flow of the story at times as he's the only one that speaks with an accent (at the moment) and the other characters speak normally.

    My question is, would it be better to:

    1: Continue writing out his accent, even though it could get annoying since he talks a lot (he's a wise arse :p) and might turn the reader off as it kind of breaks the flow a bit when you read through his sentences.

    2: Should I just state the fact that he speaks with a <Insert Name>ian accent and leave it at that, allowing the reader to make up their own accent. I was thinking this might be a good idea as I already describe his voice earlier in my story.

    3: Should I state that the character speaks with an accent and describe what the accent sounds like then let the reader fill in the blanks? I like this idea the most but I'm not completely sure.

    4. Something else?

    I'd appreciate any opinions on this! :)
    Cheers!
     
  2. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    Makes me think of Gambit from the X-men comics...

    Mmmm... Remy :rolleyes: my first fictional crush as a child.

    I say write out accents. I like it myself, as long as it doesn't change the words too much. i.e. I don't want to stumble over the dialogue several times wondering what the heck they're saying... Though, I suppose I do that with some accents when hearing to aloud too.
     
  3. delhi
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    delhi Member

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    I agree. In my case, it's quite hard to understand written accents in English, but that's because I'm not a native, so I don't know how it is with other readers.

    Maybe other characters have a hard time understanding what that character tries to say? That's an interesting tool, leading to misunderstandings, or long monologues that not even the characters get, etc.
     
  4. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    Perhaps say he speaks with an accent, and drop hints of his accent here and there, but I'd urge against writing ALL his dialogue in accent, especially if, as you say, it breaks the flow of the story. I don't read dialect writing for the very reason that I have to spend so much time trying to figure out what the characters are saying that I can't focus on the story. (Plus, EVERYBODY, whether they know it or not, has some kind of accent. Would you write out EXACTLY how every single character speaks? Every single "gonna," "wanna," "ya," "fo' sho'," "aks," etc.?) And I know some other writers and readers would agree.

    Making the story as understandable and as readable as possible is much more important than showing EXACTLY how somebody speaks.
     
  5. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    I actually do write the way people talk, for the most part. I rarely write out words like "don't you", "would have", "don't know", completely. It doesn't feel natural to me unless the character is a very proper fellow.

    But, I agree - some people lean both ways. I've had people tell me to write out every word in dialogue, and correct grammatical mistakes... then had those same people complimenting the natural dialogue in a chapter. I'm not sure if readers know what they want. :rolleyes:

    As long as you can find away to make the dialogue flow with the rest of the story, I don't think anyone would really mind.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There are two components that come across as an accent. One is phonetic shifts, where the words are the same but pronounced differently. Trying to duplicate those quirks make for very tedious reading. People read by pattern recognition, which is why you can leave out letters from the middle of a word and most people can still pick up the meaning. But mess with the beginning or end of the word, and thr reader has to sound it out like a first grader struggling with a book beyond his reading level.

    But the other aspect of an accent is word usage. Words may be omitted, placed in a different order, or regional words may be added. If your character tells someone to "sod off", you're reader will probably have a pretty good notion what his accent sounds like. Likewise, a down east character's clipped sentences will identify his Maine accent without even once describing his drawl.
     
  7. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    I'd go with your third option, especially if the accented speech is distracting. A reader will only venture so far when their connection is being constantly broken.
     
  8. ConnorMack
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    ConnorMack Member

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    I'd highly recommend that you read Hyman Kaplan, or at least some passages of it. It's about a school of immigrants in America, and just about every one of the students have distinct accents. I suppose it all depends on what kind of accent you want your character to be. All in all, I find reading accents to be both fun to read and fun to write. Who cares if it breaks the flow of the story? If characters have to listen a bit harder to understand what this accented character has to say shouldn't the reader?

    Of course this is with the assumption that your character has one crazy accent. If you're going with more along the lines of either a British accent, Irish, or German, than I suggest "Is He Dead?" by Mark Twain, there are a British man, Irishman, and a German fellow in there, with distinct writing for each one of their dialogue. For southern accents, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin" is an easy and almost obvious answer. The point of a character's accent is to have that accent, for the reader to noticed as he or she reads it and enjoy it, not to simply write ordinary english and expect someone to 'pretend it's in an accent'. Have fun writing your accents! :D
     
  9. Hexapod
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    Hexapod New Member

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    I don't know, I find it annoying to write personally lol :D I read a few sci-fi books to see how they handled accents of a futuristic nature and they went with option three and it seems to be a good option. I think I'll go with that one too, not because I don't want to write the accent but because I don't think I'm good enough at writing to pull it off yet :p I have other accents such as British for example but I currently live in London so it's easy to write.

    That's exactly why I can handle writing certain accents lol.

    Thanks for all the replies guys! :love:
     
  10. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I have read plenty 'o books where the characters have accents. (One book comes to mind, where a black guy is in jail. He smokes and talks, and I had a jolly time reading EVERYTHING he said. It didn't detract, but conversely added much to the writing. To this moment, he's still the most vibrant character in my mind)

    You don't have to add EVERY bit of his accent to the writing, but a thrown in 'dunno' or 'aint gunna' will do wonders for the perception of his accent. Really adds character, I think.
     
  11. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree. I think throwing in enough of the accent that your readers KNOW he speaks with an accent without them stumbling over it is a good way to go. I like reading accents, but trying to read accents that are hard to decipher (like some of the dialogue of the slave characters in Gone with the Wind) is really frustrating.
     
  12. SilverRam
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    SilverRam Member

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    Hmm, maybe try to have the characters tell the reader? For example, if you were writing in first person:

    "I turned to him as he spoke, recognizing his thick accent instantly as -insert accent's country name-"

    Had a third person example, but forgot it, sorry.

    There are other ways too. For one of my stories, which has a graphic novel form, one character has a slight accent. Since I cannot tell the story in writing, like the example above, one of the other characters is going to correct him on a mispronunciation, and tease him about it.(Which is completely in character and is just friendly.) Then say something along the line of:

    "Still can't kick that habit."
    (Ok, thats bad, but you get it right?)

    Learning about accents can really help too, not saying you haven't researched it or anything. For example, 'th' isn't found in languages like Polish. They sometimes pronounce a 'th' like a 'd'. So the becomes 'de'. So after he says something you can say he pronounced it a certain way, to enforce the idea of an accent on the reader. Doing that too many times will become annoying, savvy?
     
  13. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    This is why it's so darn convenient everyone in the Stargate Universe speaks perfect English :p. It might not be horribly realistic but sometimes the realism needs to be put aside to make the story understandable.
     
  14. pacmansays
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    pacmansays Senior Member

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    What accent is it, i did a course on English Language with a section of language variation and accents depending on class and colour in the UK.

    I also have some information, I think, on ways accents can change so I can be a bit of a help
     
  15. graphologist
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    graphologist New Member

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    I agee with Atari

    "You don't have to add EVERY bit of his accent to the writing, but a thrown in 'dunno' or 'aint gunna' will do wonders for the perception of his accent. Really adds character, I think"

    An accent thrown in here and there will add 'spice' to this character. I personally however have struggled through having to read page-after-page of accented dialogue and have often given up on the book because of this.
     
  16. jack_is_cool
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    jack_is_cool Member

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    I like your second option, and for the reasons you stated. The flow would be better, in my opinion. I also think it could add room for some humour. Have some characters comment on that character's accent in their internal dialogue. You could write in the accent then. That kind of thing.
     
  17. Ghosts in Latin
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    Ghosts in Latin Senior Member

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    I think it depends wholly on the accent. I, personally, don't mind reading something like:
    I think the accent is depicted wonderfully. Although I can see how it may be slightly discouraging for a character who speaks frequently through out the story, if someone is turned off from the book because of something like this, it probably isn't the book for them, anyway.

    Though, like I said, it depends on the accent. If I were reading an attempt to emulate a deep African dialect of English, my eyes would fall from their sockets.
     

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