1. Matt Orsic
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    Matt Orsic New Member

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    How to describe accents in a fantasy book

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Matt Orsic, Aug 17, 2015.

    I'm currently writing a book that does not take place on our earth, but one that I whipped up with different countries, races and whatnot, however, I'm having trouble describing a characters accent. With two other characters that come from a Scotland or Ireland type of area I describe them as having a Brogue, which is common when speaking of that type of accent.

    My issue is I have no idea how to describe a Russian or African accent without outright saying "Russian" or "African" accent, as it would take away the immersion in my opinion. Or even an accent similar to Ragnar from the Vikings series.
    Any words or methods I could use?
     
  2. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    If an accent is extreme enough, I normally just take the Mark Twain approach to it.

    Mark Twain didn't just state they talked like a certain person. He wrote it in the dialogue like they would say it. So for my accent, I might write my own dialogue as "He was just hangin' around." If I went deep south I might write, "He were jus' hangin' 'round there." See how I used an apostrophe in order to show where letters might be slurred? I might even replace letters like the "th" with some other sound. "Dat ain't right, ya know." Also I switched up word usage to show one style of speaking over another.

    The problem with Ragnar from the Viking's series is that while he does have an accient, it's not extreme enough to really show in writing. That one I might just brush by and mention, "He had an accent from the north, with it's stiff speech."
     
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  3. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    I think if you place enough clues as to an analogous Earth culture, the reader can make the connection themselves and hear the accent.
    Take the Discworld books, by Terry Pratchett, for example. Most of the books take place in Ankh-Morpork, which is pretty obviously based on London, circa the Industrial Revolution. Thus, it becomes easy to hear the characters speaking in Southern English accents, ranging from the ultra posh to cockney. Similarly, Quirm is presented as an analog to France, Fourecks to Australia, and Genua to New Orleans.
    This sort of thing can be achieved by mentioning real-world clothing, traditions, food, or even the occasional actual word. Maybe the ruler of your Not-Russia is called the Czar. Your Not-An-African-Nation is noted for its giraffes. Your Not-a-Frenchman greets people with "Bonjour."
     
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  4. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can try to mimic the accent in writing, but if this character speaks a lot it could annoy the reader as they have to try and puzzle out what is being said. What might be better is to try and mimic the word order used by speakers of language X when they speak English.
     
  5. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    The problem with writing out accents is that it can offend readers who have that accent, as it implies it's an incorrect way to speak (otherwise it would be written in standard English, as the writer generally portrays their own accent). Can offend; not always does. Many will find it funny, or accept that your writing is coloured by your perception. Or your audience may not include X cultural demographic anyway. But it's something to weigh up.

    (That raises the question of what's accent vs sloppy pronunciation - as I'd interpret Kallisto's 'hangin' around' above. Then there are grey areas, like whether the Scottish 'cannae' is an accent or a word in its own right.)

    If you're worried about offending, safer to stick with idiosyncratic words and sentence structures as others have suggested. Or @ManOrAstroMan 's 'cultural connections' method is good :) (as long as you pick connections that aren't offensive...)

    Or just write out your Scottish accent and if anyone complains, say 'Scottish? You read that as Scottish? That's a Linguanian accent, it's not even close...' ;)
     
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