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  1. M2013

    M2013 New Member

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    Character Accents

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by M2013, Jan 12, 2013.

    Anyone know of any source that helps writers write accents. I know I want my chatacter to have an accent but I don't want to say it without showing it in the text itself. If there is a topic on the forum please share link.

    Thanks in advance
    M.
     
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  2. peachalulu

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    The general consensus is reader don't like when writers write in accents i.e. altering spelling and
    such - I tried doing this for my short story Thunderbolt - if you want to check it out it's on my blog, and though people
    liked the story found the accent interesting but tedious.
    There are a few writers who have done this though, with tremendous success - The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Huck Finn. And if you Google
    writing with an accent some good articles come up - most of the time they suggest relaxing grammer and using slang
    rather than trying to re-spell a word.
     
  3. PeterC

    PeterC Active Member

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    In my work in progress my main character has to learn the language. When she is first introduced I have her making many grammatical errors and using words in strange places. One of the things I need to do is make sure she does this is a consistent, sensible way (currently that's not the case). I quickly found that reading her broken dialog gets old fast. Fortunately a couple of chapters after her introduction there is a significant time shift and then I have her speaking much more fluently. I still throw a few quirks into her speech so the reader knows she's still learning but it's much more comfortable to read. I do have one character comment on her accent but I haven't tried to do anything in the text to explictly convey an accent... just odd grammar and word choices.
     
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  4. SilverWolf0101

    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    You can write accents without sacrificing good writing. I've seen a few authors, and even a guy I rped with, use termonology to introduce accents to us. Certain cultures have certain words that others don't normally use. An example is in Britian, they tend to use the term "bloody" in their dialect, which isn't something we tend to use here in the U.S. Subconsciously, as a reader, when we read the dialect and see these terms, we'll instantly think of the accent and apply it to that character/person.
    Another method you can try is by hinting at their nationality when you introduce the character, it may make it so that when we hear the character speak, we connect a certain accent to them.
    You could also try using "tones". Descriptive words that explain to us how the speaker is talking. In one of the books I read, the author used this method, mentioning that the one character liked to cut their vowels short, which is an accent known to the northern parts of the U.S in certain states.
    These are just some ideas to help you figure out a means to involving accents in your writing.
     
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  5. Show

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think heavy accent writing is annoying to read. It can probably be accomplished just as well with regular spelling and just implying the accent in another way. (ie the above poster's example of using "bloody" for a British person is one I'd prefer reading over heavy misspelling.)
     
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  6. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's best to show a foreign accent with the syntax differences and with idioms, rather than spelling... and tossing in a word of their own language here and there, after a hesitation... that sort of thing goes over much better than trying to write an accent...
     
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  7. shadowwalker

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agree with the above comments - don't make the reader slog through weird spellings and especially phonetic spellings. Give clues to the accent through slang or phrases, or tell us where they come from. Readers aren't dumb - they'll catch on. ;)
     
  8. DeathandGrim

    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I do actually worry about this problem too because I have a couple of characters that speak in a different manner. One of which is very southern to which I altered the spelling of words to fit the phonetics, its kind of a pain to read but its something I want the reader to visualize the manner of speaking
     
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  9. shadowwalker

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    And you really don't think readers, told in some manner that the character has a deep southern accent, will hear that themselves? Give your readers some credit.
     
  10. jedellion

    jedellion Member

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    Accents can be so annoying, and so hard to do well. It can be enough to just allude to an accent every now and again.

    'scuse me mister. Do you have the time?

    Of course my good fellow.

    Thanks, mate,
     
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  11. brainfruit

    brainfruit New Member

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    It either works or it doesn't, right? The Grapes of Wrath would have not accomplished what it did, had it not been for those accents. Those accents defined the characters which held the story which captured the zeitgeist of the depression. But Steinbeck did the research. He understood his characters because he understood his experiences.
     
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  12. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    Using words like 'Drawled' to describe how someone talks can help imply an accent without being obvious and explicit about it. As others have pointed out above me, accents are often tied to dialects as well - You're not going to hear someone with an oxford accent using the word "Ain't", and you're not going to hear someone from Texas use the expletive "Bloody hell". When I hear something like that, I immediately assume the accent.
     
  13. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    As a Briton, from the planet Britia, I can't remember the last time I used, or heard, anybody say bloody...but then I don't often watch American TV programmes...

    To be picky, this sounds a little inconsistent, and archaic...

    'scuse me mister. (OK. Cockney? And a little Charles Dickens; as spoken by a street urchin.) Do you have the time? (And now you've slipped into a non-specific courtesy that's at odds with Cockney. TBH, I'd portray Cockney as "Got the time, mate?")

    Of course my good fellow. (Again, slightly archaic. And a little unlikely to have a street urchin address a toff. I'd also suggest that he's more likely to have referred to him as "my good man", although only in a context where the toff had received the favour.)

    Thanks, mate ("Ta, mate" would be more in keeping with someone from the working classes)


    The whole scenario of a common man asking the time of one of his betters sounds out of time with the present...unless it was with the intent of distracting him prior to mugging him...

    To the OP, I'm with those who advise against using misspelt words to portray an accent...so wearing.
     
  14. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use differences in spelling in my Doctor Who fanfic to distinguish between what I consider to be the American and the British accents

    but I use British spelling (elevator / lift, recognize / recognise, traveler / traveller), not an American's impression of British phonetic spelling. If you wouldn't use phonetic spelling for your own accent, then you shouldn't use it for a different one.
     
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  15. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    Count me among those who say it's best to avoid phonetic mimicry of accents, or at least heavy usage of it. I recall reading Shiloh back in elementary school. In my opinion it's one of the better examples of phonetic accents, but it was still rather tiresome.
     
  16. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also, with the elevator/lift, you've highlighted another way to differentiate "accents"...sidewalk/pavement, vest/waistcoat (in the UK a vest is an undershirt...imagine my confusion, at about 8, coming across a "vest-pocket receipt book"!), pants/trousers (again, pants are undergarments!)...and, within the UK, messages is Glaswegian for shopping...as in I'm just off to get my messages.

    I find that when reading certain American spellings (especially color/colour, flavour/flavour) I read with a heavy accent upon the second syllable.

    Incidentally, what about lieutenant? There's the American Loo-tenant, and the British Leff-tenant, and both differ from the French original...I think? It would be interesting to actually hear that from a Frenchman.
     
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  17. texshelters

    texshelters Member

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    I was worried when I introduced a walk-on character with an accent, just to mix it up. I changed the word order and word choice as a trial run. Hopefully, it works. Great topic and discussion. Peace, T

    i.e: "Nothing much too cheerful about it. A woman died here today." (The novel takes place in Chicago and the character works in the evidence/properties room of a police station)
     
  18. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Who wants waffles...? Contributor

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    I have a secondary character that is Russian, and the only time it implies her origins is when she is saying yes
    in her native tongue or out right speaking in it. Other than that I don't stress to hard on her origins outside
    of a hint of back story when an MC brings it up in a monologue memory of where he found her in Siberia
    (though it is Sci-fi, the village is a real place in reality: Irkutsk)

    So that being said. I think once you have established your characters origins, and may or may not add little
    inflections to it in their speech here and there. That the reader will be able to imagine them speaking with
    an accent that fits the character and their origins.
     
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