1. R-e-n-n-a-t

    R-e-n-n-a-t New Member

    Nov 10, 2010
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    Character voices/languages/accents

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by R-e-n-n-a-t, Mar 8, 2011.

    Inspired by the dwarf accent thread, how many people really make their characters, or some of them, speak differently from others?

    I know many people make 'word clouds' that the character would use, but what about beyond that, such as implementing an accent or diction into speech? H.P. Lovecraft comes to mind; although some of his things can be dry to read, he put in slurred speech quite commonly in his fish people and it rarely broke the flow of reading. After a while it gave a pretty clear impression of the character's voice.

    In one case, I've put an unusual accent on one of my characters because it's an alien that has an entirely different form of mouth, which is incapable of pronouncing sharp sounds. Because of this, it also finds humans speaking to be harsh and somewhat disturbing.
  2. Elgaisma

    Elgaisma Contributor Contributor

    Jun 12, 2010
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    Gran/Iris has an accent. Reverend Allsopp uses thees, thines, thous etc but haven't decided whether to remove them.

    With the others they all have turns of phrases others wouldn't use - Angus uses volcanic which he picked up from his Uncle Tom. The Abbot is verbose uses too many long unncessary words, Bessie the housekeeper is a malaprop which is fun to write. Socrates uses disgusting article a lot - Nate is distinguised with his almost bland in comparison to the rest of them speech.

    Uncle Tom and Gilbert who are in effect servants use slightly more crude expressions than others etc
  3. w176

    w176 Contributor Contributor

    Jun 22, 2010
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    LuleƄ, Sweden
    I think syntax and vocabulary, pacing, sentence lenght, use/non use of profanities, what they say/leave unspoken, formal/unformal language etc it a lot more interesting then accent.
  4. HorusEye

    HorusEye Contributor Contributor

    Jul 25, 2009
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    I've never used word clouds or anything like that. When I'm writing dialogue, I picture the character in motion, read their expressions and hear their voice, and meanwhile I'll pound the sentence like dough until it fits into their mouth.
  5. WastelandSurvivor

    WastelandSurvivor New Member

    Jan 2, 2011
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    Phoenix, AZ
    A character in my novella has a bit of a southern Illinois accent, so I have included contracted words like "gonna", "oughta" and "ain't" as well as shortened or slurred words like "prob'ly" and "somethin'." I would like to think that it doesn't cause any problems when it comes to reading it, but then again I grew up with people talking like that so it's natural to me and possibly not to others.
  6. SeverinR

    SeverinR New Member

    Feb 15, 2011
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    New Madison Ohio
    This is one subject I am concerned about.

    I think of what my character would say, but do they speak like seperate people or are they really just alike?

    Its easy to speak differently when writing dialog for an orc or other humanoid, or a heavy accent of a sailor. But people of the same general background?

    I think they do offer a great spice in a dialog, to set the person apart from the others. But my MC tend to speak generally without accents.

    Its kind of like on the movie "Just go with it", the girl asks "can I speak with an accent?"
    "I don't know, let me here it."
    "Jolly good then" (bad english accent)
    "definately not."

    Readers can tell if someone is familiar with an accent, so if you just speak a stereotypical accent, it might detract from the story. Could also alienate the group of people that have the accent that you massacre.
  7. Smoke

    Smoke New Member

    Mar 1, 2011
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    I've gone with having more refined characters speak in shades of purple while the least refined goes with baseline-acceptable for proper english.

    Of course, the characters are supposed to speak in purple, and the one who speaks in urbane is actually the only one being grammer-uplifted.
  8. MindscrewMin

    MindscrewMin New Member

    Mar 6, 2011
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    Hoboy. This was a fun thing to do while I was working on my series.

    I've got one character with quirky mannerisms and quite a few verbal tics, one who speaks with a very heavy eastern European accent, one with a Quebec French accent, two from the deep South, and two Russians.

    The Quebecker was easy because she sounds like my mom, so I just imagined how something would sound if my mom said it and spelled it phonetically.

    The Texans were easy because I live in Texas and I hang out with people who talk like that on a day to day basis.

    The Norwegian and the Russians were the hardest because I'd never had any exposition to the accents besides movies, the media, and other novels. I had to fudge both accents a lot and I'm afraid they've come out a big exaggerated, but my friends and beta readers haven't seemed to notice, lucky for me XD

    Oftentimes I'll actually say my dialog out loud in accents before writing it down. People look at me on the bus like I'm psychotic.
  9. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    all characters should have their own particular way of speaking, just as real people do...

    when i write fiction, each character has a character of his/her own, so no two would speak exactly the same way...
  10. KillianRussell

    KillianRussell New Member

    Feb 23, 2011
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    exactly sound alike characters a recipe for mediocrity...race, gender,age ,education,economic levels all play a part in the 'sound' ..a priest would not sound gnarly , a skate punk would sound not ornate,
  11. Islander

    Islander Contributor Contributor

    Jul 29, 2008
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    I make my characters speak differently by playing out their voices and body language in my head while I'm writing. Mostly I go by feel, but I also try to pay attention to things like sentence length, vocabulary and grammar.

    For example, a small child tends to use short, grammatically simple sentences. An adult who's not so intelligent uses simple words. A nerdy or intellectual type may use long, complicated sentences and unusual words. Someone with a working class background may make many grammatical errors (or what is considered to be grammatical errors by the middle class).

    There are also differences in how people think which reflect in their speech. For example, small children tend to make simple, direct statements, like "I lost my sock!" or "Why are they fighting?". Intelligent adults often make reflecting statements, like "How can there only be left socks in my drawer?" or "They've been fighting ever since we got here". The nerdy or intellectual type may get lost in the subject being talked about and spend a long time elaborating before they answer.

    I also try to include my characters' personal quirks and habits into their speech, for example, a tendency to confuse similar words, or a tendency to stutter nervously, or a tendency to let their thoughts fly in all directions, and so on.

    I'm not so good with dialects, so I tend to use them very sparingly. I think it's better to under-do them than to do them wrong.
  12. tristan.n

    tristan.n Active Member

    Dec 17, 2010
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    Overland Park, KS
    I have an uptight character who speaks in mannerisms that others would see as awkward, while another character talks loudly and is quite blunt with her opinions, and another who talks big but knows when to speak compassionately. To me it comes easily just because I know the personalities of the characters and can base their mannerisms and senses of humor and whatnot on people who are most like them. The uptight character has quite the dry sense of humor, and the loud one is good at firing witty comebacks, while the third character prefers to make sarcastic comments under her breath.
  13. Ion

    Ion New Member

    Mar 7, 2011
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    I have a character that's Russian. He has the corresponding accent.

    When writing for a character with an accent, don't touch the spelling of the words. You can mix up the grammar and omit or add words, but don't make it harder for the reader to read unless you are absolutely sure what you're doing will work.

    Wrong way: "People! Vaht am I doeeng een place sooch as zees?"
    Right way: "People! What am I doing in place such as this?"

    The reader has imagination. They'll fill in the blanks.

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