1. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    Writing an accent? (in particular, Scottish)

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by JadeX, Feb 27, 2016.

    One of my main characters happens to be from Scotland (Aberdeen).

    But, other than simply telling the reader that this character is Scottish, I don't know what else to do. As we all know, accents are an audial thing, not a visual one. You can't really "write" an accent. The only thing I can think of is to pepper his speech with stereotypical vernacular like "wee bit" (or else make constant mention of his accent every time he speaks, which would be borderline offensive and also annoying).

    Sooooo....... I'm kind of lost here. What on earth am I supposed to do to really make this character "feel" Scottish?
     
  2. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Do what Neil Gaiman did. Mention that the character is Scottish once, and then treat him like any other character. Unless you're writing a harlequin romance, your reader doesn't need the accent baked into the text.
     
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  3. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    I'm a fan of not so much baking in the accent but at least putting in some regionally familiar words that would be used in conversation. A bit of flavour if you like to remind one of the character's origin and distinguish them from other characters. Bairn for baby, dirk for dagger for instance.
     
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  4. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Something like this.
     
  5. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I faced a similar situation with the novel I just finished wherein I had to reproduce the speaking style of Western Nova Scotia in the mid-1960's. It helps that I grew up there during that period.

    What I did was, I first mentioned the location of the story (naturally) and then did my best to stick to regional vernacular while trying not to get stereotypical.

    I'd suggest you familiarize yourself with word choices and typical grammatical constructs of the area where your character grew up and/or lived (if you aren't already).

    Don't worry too much about polishing the character's dialogue until you're well along in the drafting process. You might also run the finished produce past a Scottish person or two, asking them for input.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm glad you're not thinking of actually spelling out the accent --that's almost always a mess.

    And I agree with the others about throwing in a bit of vernacular and leaving it at that.
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Lots of stuff online about this kind of thing. Here's one:
     
  8. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Aye, ee think if ya write oot the words phonetically, ya canne help but look like an ass. The only book I've ever seen do it well was Trainspotting, and that had the narration being internal as well.
     
  9. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I thought Trainspotting was written in Scots? Aye, it wes. Can you not write what you hear in your head, OP, stand back, see how it reads?
     
  10. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    But trying to do the accented version of every word spelled out just looks racist, as @halisme said. It's better to write it with standard spelling and use grammar and words to give the accent impression.
     
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  11. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    But everyone has an accent, and we don't us phonetic spelling for most of our dialogue. Why would we start spelling one character's dialogue phonetically and not someone else's?
     
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  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It's tricky and does require some research, but using the vernacular is better than trying to reproduce the sound.

    For example, here in modern Scotland people say 'he's in hospital,' rather than 'he's in the hospital', which is what would have been said where I grew up (Michigan.) Stuff like that will trip you up if you don't write it in tune with what people actually say. It's kind of expanding on the trunk/boot idea.

    Modern Scots say "I'm away," meaning they're about to leave. (I'm going away now.)

    They also visit 'the surgery' rather than go to 'the doctor's office.' A drug store is 'the chemist.' However, the pharmaceutical department in a hospital—where you get your 7 day supply of drugs upon discharge from hospital—is referred to as 'the pharmacy.'

    Scots do say 'aye' a lot. Some say it all the time in place of 'yes,' but it's actually more commonly used to signify agreement.

    "Donald Trump is a raving lunatic."
    "Aye."

    If you can get the vernacular right, the person will sound Scottish without it being difficult to read OR looking/sounding racist at all.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2016
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  13. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    1. You're right Oscar, I was being pompous ass - wanted to flag Scots as a language.

    2. Hello Bayview, because it might be fun. I understand, I read that line of someone's about 'baking' constructions into the prose. But I like people to write with abandon, caution get a little tiresome: 'He was Scottish, "how do you do, me ald mates, top of the morning to ya, to be sure, to be sure," he said in that delightful dialect of mist, whisky, white skin, nhhh, nnnn, somewhere around there, up there. But perhaps he was not Scottish, an agent of the Soviet union, drank white wine with steak, savage and unfathomable.'
     
  14. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Um is that reply supposed to be seriously saying I was right or not? I can't tell if you're sarcastic! :confused::confused:
     
  15. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    :agreed:No, I'm nice, fgs

    :bigsmile:...if I get 'sarcastic' :bigtongue:or 'evil' I wouldn't post it, well, :bigcool:sometimes I do then delete myself, like real life really:superhello:.

    :meh:

    [I'm gonna do that with every post, a quite brilliant invention]
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2016
  16. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This. Mix up the words and the grammar, but don't change the spelling.
     
  17. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    ...but this thread always pops up, and the advice is always the same.

    Actually people do write (and spell) in dialect - George Mcdonald Fraser, Flashman, wrote his memoir stuffed with Cumbrian dialect, Clockwork Orange, even some clunky sci-fi of Heinlein I recall - his characters conversed in a kind of nu-speak, so I'd recommend to mix-it up, try new things, rather than conform to strictures. Give it a go, don't worry about looking foolish.

    Nice little article contradicts me completely:http://www.dailywritingtips.com/writing-dialogue-in-accents-and-dialect/
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2016
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  18. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used a few different dialectical tools in my WIP, which seem to have passed reader scrutiny. The centurion, when he is speaking Latin, speaks a "fractured soldier's Latin," which I depict as sort of a Cockney, with various profanities, bad grammar, some vowels omitted, etc. That is his primary voice. When he is speaking Greek however, these do not appear: he is of Greek descent, and speaks good Greek. The senior officer and the senator with him speak, at least initially, quite high-toned, though as the situation deteriorates, they become much more colloquial. Aramaic, which the centurion speaks (a little) and some of the characters do as a first tongue, I depict as a "Thou sayest..." type King James dialect. There is not enough Aramaic used to make that distracting, and at one point I think the switch heightens the drama of the situation.

    I have a Chinese man learning Latin, and I would expect him to speak Latin in the same way many Chinese initially speak English or other languages, as a pidgin without tenses or grammar. Their language does not have those concepts and they are very hard for them to learn. Finally, all of my Latin/Greek/Aramaic speakers have to master Chinese and then Bactrian to get back home, and I depict that learning with all the initial inaccuracies associated with first forays into a new tongue. The centurion switches to Chinese to talk to the girl, now his lover, who is bilingual in Latin and han-yu, and he says, "Beauty day!" to which her response is "What? Oh... yes, it is a beautiful day, An-dun, a beautiful day indeed," An-Dun being the Chinese rendering of Antonius. However this transition is kept mercifully short for the reader, mainly for humor, rather than exposition, and to remind the reader that this is not something easy for them to do, especially while on the run for their lives!
     
  19. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I read a Scottish work, would I likely appreciate an American's dialogue being written phonetically?
     
  20. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, you could give it a try

    We arrived upon th' shores ay a strange an' fascinatin' coontry. Early doors we endeavoored tae savoor th' natife cuisine. So stepped inside th' pizza parloor, ah was addressed by a citizen ay thes land,

    Hey, haw ar yoo’ she said,' er teeth dazzled, ‘is it a table fur tew, ur da go?’

    ‘Da go?’ ah replied.

    ‘I think she said “go,”’ said mah Malcolm, mah companion, ‘go whaur?’ he said.

    ‘I don’t ken.’

    ‘Your dunkin?’ she said.

    'No, I'm Malcolm,' he said.

    ‘Yes, ah do ken,' I said, 'but danno de go ur de stair, seems is dat kin' ay place.’

    ‘Suit yerself, yer freeks,’ she replied

    with assistance c/o http://www.whoohoo.co.uk/main.asp
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2016
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  21. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    No way! :D I remember c/o. It makes me want to create brochures that people can request that I'll somehow pay for. :)
     
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  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You're beginning to sound like Outlander.... although Ken didn't put in an appearance till several chapters in, but then he refused to go away.
     
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  23. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    I agree with BayView about "spelling out" the accent phonetically. If all of my characters were Scottish, or if I were Scottish myself, there would be no "accent" to speak of - the existence of an accent is only a matter of perspective, so I don't think it a good idea to treat a certain character so much differently than the rest just because they speak differently from my other characters.
    (Sorry, matwoolf, I see you're rather enthusiastic about this method - and perhaps it may work for some writers - but I don't think it's for me)

    Jannert - I had forgotten about the word "Aye", so thank you for reminding me of that - it's a simple word, easily understood, that could add a bit of flavour to my character's speech without sticking out too much.

    Do you think these wiki articles might help?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_English
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotticism

    What I'm thinking of doing is using only the more easily-understood words and phrases (I don't intend to go too "deep" with the accent/vernacular) so that the reader can still understand everything while still having a bit of inflection. For example (these are from the articles I linked):
    - It's a fair way to Skye from here meaning "It's a good distance to Skye from here"
    - What age are you? for "How old are you?"
    - My hair is needing washed or My hair needs washed for "My hair needs washing" or "My hair needs to be washed".
    - I'm just after telling you for "I've just told you".
    - Where do you stay? meaning "Where do you live?"
    - A'll see ye Monday next meaning "I'll see you a week on Monday"
    - What (are) ye after? meaning "What are you looking for?" or (in pubs) "What will you have to drink?"
    And words like "haver = nonsense" and "blether = gossip", but not really anything more "exotic" than that - just minor things here and there, not a constant stream of Scotticisms. Otherwise, as Jack Asher and a few others have said, I'll just treat him like any other character. That should be enough, right?
     
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  24. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well I don't mind at all, just some books are written in Scots, and I got nothing else to do this afternoon - also the 'translator' is an official tool, I only utilised a facility, also there's that scene in the film 'Trainspotting' when the American wanders into the bar during festival. I wonder how that was written...in the book?
     
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  25. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I have The Acid House, but haven't finished it. No sighting of American vernacular, but there is talk of showers and men at one point, perhaps in reference to the athletic activity known in this jurisdiction as 'soccer.'

    -- Aye, bit the thing is, yous boys come doon here eftir the match wantin yir fuckin shower. It's no these ----s thit git the hassle; it's fuckin muggins here, I pouted tersely, thrashing my chest with my finger.
    -- Hud oan pal, said one of the skippers, -- wir no sayin nowt against you.
    -- Aw naw, naw, naebody's blamin the boy, another player says to the skipper. They all nod in acquiescence, apart from a few ----s on the periphery, who moan away. Then one skipper stands up oan the bench and shouts: -- Wi cannae git the showers tae work, lads. Ah know it's a pain, but that's it. The boy's done his best.

    And from this passage one may deduce that consternation in the changing areas of stadiums following 'matches' may be of significant degree, especially in cases of restricted bathing for personal hygiene.

    Vintage, p.181
     
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