Characters with accents

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Mark.W.Carson
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Characters with accents

Post by Mark.W.Carson » July 3rd, 2012, 4:22 pm

Love them? Hate them? Have trouble reading what they're saying?

Help me out here :).

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by Sommer Leigh » July 3rd, 2012, 4:33 pm

Hate them.

Personal opinion only. I find them very distracting, especially when I have to try and decipher what it is they are trying to say. I'd rather *know* they have an accent and let my brain fill in the rest. There's this YA book that a lot of people LOVE. It won the Cybils award this year. Blood Red Road by Moira Young. The narrator has a dialect that's written into the writing and I found it so distracting I couldn't get through but a few chapters. And I really wanted to read this book and love it as much as others, but my brain, I guess, isn't wired to flow through this kind of writing.

This is really my own personal reading opinion though.
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Mark.W.Carson
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Re: Characters with accents

Post by Mark.W.Carson » July 3rd, 2012, 4:37 pm

Hmm... something to consider, then. I don't want to remove the reader from a good experience, but I do want to add the flavor of how they say things. I've got a character I just changed (nationality, age, etc) and he sort of talks like the kicker from The Replacements mixed with (if you watch Sons of Anarchy) the son from the IRA.

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by CharleeVale » July 3rd, 2012, 4:55 pm

Sommer Leigh wrote:Hate them.

I find them very distracting, especially when I have to try and decipher what it is they are trying to say. I'd rather *know* they have an accent and let my brain fill in the rest.
THIS.

My boss has the same opinion, and whenever she edits a book she makes them change the written out dialect back to normal.

I love a character so much more if I don't get pulled out of the story every time they have to speak because I'm translating. Say they have an accent, and don't worry, the reader will remember.

CV

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by Mark.W.Carson » July 3rd, 2012, 5:06 pm

Maybe a compromise. Certain special words will get "the treatment" when the rest of his dialogue won't.

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by dios4vida » July 3rd, 2012, 5:07 pm

I don't mind written accents, as long as they're subtle. When every other word has apostrophes and misspellings I have a hard time with it, but I actually like a few things here and there, like "yer" instead of "your" and things like that. But if I have to pause and figure out what they're saying, it's too much.

What I prefer, though, are speech idiosyncracies. Specialized curses, word choices, and analogies that fit with their nationality are the best kind of accents. Scott Westerfeld is a master of this. In Leviathan, one of his main characters is a Scottish girl and I adore her voice. She says things like "Barking spiders!" and "lass" and little things like that, so you never forget she's from Scotland but it's never an in-your-face accent.
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Re: Characters with accents

Post by cheekychook » July 3rd, 2012, 5:21 pm

I love a character with an accent as long as it's not hitting you over the head.

I agree that it's best to mention it somehow and use different terms/phrasing/expressions to get the accent across rather than using special spelling to phonetically "show" the reader that the person is speaking with an accent. Small things like "Y'all" or other readily recognizable slang are fine, but when it gets into making up spellings or shortening all sorts of words it becomes too distracting for the reader.

Roughly half the characters I've written have British accents so this is something I've dealt with a little (British accents are probably the easiest to portray because most readers are readily familiar with them). If you're going with a known accent, find some common or quirky phrases to use or have your POV character mention the accent/what it sounds like/needing a moment to translate/being amused by the pronunciation of certain words/not know what on earth the accented person is trying to say.

And yes, as was said above, the reader will catch on and start hearing it in his/her head once the ideas been planted.
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Mark.W.Carson
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Re: Characters with accents

Post by Mark.W.Carson » July 3rd, 2012, 6:21 pm

It wouldn't have been like going into a full cockney accent or anything, but more like "hafta" instead of have to or "naw" instead of not.

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by CharleeVale » July 3rd, 2012, 6:56 pm

mark54g wrote:It wouldn't have been like going into a full cockney accent or anything, but more like "hafta" instead of have to or "naw" instead of not.
I would say even stay away from things like that. But of course it's your decision.

CV

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by dios4vida » July 3rd, 2012, 7:03 pm

CharleeVale wrote:
mark54g wrote:It wouldn't have been like going into a full cockney accent or anything, but more like "hafta" instead of have to or "naw" instead of not.
I would say even stay away from things like that. But of course it's your decision.

CV
Whereas I would say those kind of things are fine by me. Gotta love how there are no right/wrong answers in writing sometimes!
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by Sommer Leigh » July 3rd, 2012, 7:21 pm

CharleeVale wrote:
mark54g wrote:It wouldn't have been like going into a full cockney accent or anything, but more like "hafta" instead of have to or "naw" instead of not.
I would say even stay away from things like that. But of course it's your decision.

CV
I'm with Charlee on this. Especially if it's in first person and so all the narrative is written like that. "Fer" instead of "for" and dropping the "g" on the end of "ing" words, that ruins a book for me. As evidenced by this thread though, everyone is different. You're going to find people who are fine with it and some who can't stand it. I prefer to see the use of slang and other cultural identifiers (food, music, clothing, terms of endearment, etc) to keep me deep behind the culture of the characters without the accents in the writing itself. If you like it, that's the way you should go with it. You're getting tangled up in the marketability of the book, which you can't guess at. That book I mentioned before, Blood Red Road? Insanely popular, but it also has a large population of people who couldn't finish the book because of the way the narrator thought/spoke. Write it how you want to write it, and if it's not going to sell well, your agent will probably tell you to change it. If it doesn't matter, then it doesn't matter. But don't compromise your vision of the book based on a small sampling of readers preferences.
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Re: Characters with accents

Post by Sleeping Beauty » July 4th, 2012, 12:17 am

I think Hagrid is the absolute best example of the 'written accent' trope.
"Harry - yer a wizard." That's the quote from the book (the more famous version, reversed, is from the film). And everybody knows what Hagrid sounds like. It's gruff, but it's still English.

But oh my gosh, Joseph the Yorkshire gardener in Wuthering Heights. I was literally skipping his dialogue when I first read that book. And I understand the accent perfectly - but written like that, to me, it's barely intelligable.

Here's an example:

"They's rahm for boath ye un' yer pride, now, I sud think i' the hahse. It's empty; ye may hev' it all to yerseln, un' him as allus maks a third, i' sich ill company!"

???

I found a websitehttp://www.wuthering-heights.co.uk/josephs-speech.htmthat actually translates all of his dialogue, and here's the sentance again:

"There's room for both you and your pride now, I should think, in the house. It's empty: you may have it all to yourself, and him who always makes a third in such bad company [the Devil]!"

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by Mark.W.Carson » July 4th, 2012, 12:31 am

Yeah... that line from Wuthering Heights is unintelligible in most cases. I was thinking of adding a few phonetecisms for flavor, but I think I'll use far fewer for garnish instead. :).

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by Amanda Elizabeth » July 4th, 2012, 4:11 am

I think it's amusing that people put so much time and thought into foreign accents, but none into American ones. If an European character needs an accent written out then we may as well have characters from the NY area have spelled out accents as well. One common running joke w/ yankee accents is "Jeet yet?" "No, jew?" (Did you eat yet? No, did you?)

If you use the correct slang and verbiage when needed I think it can help with the imagination without ruining the flow of reading. Harry Potter is technically all in an accent since the characters and 3rd person narrator are English, but (besides Hagrid and the French characters which was VERY annoying btw) you know the accent by the vocabulary used -- Mum, bloke, git, knickers, bloody, etc. as well as some more complex phrasing.

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by writersink » July 4th, 2012, 4:46 am

Amanda Elizabeth wrote: bloke, git, knickers, bloody, etc. as well as some more complex phrasing.
I didn't even think about how these aren't something a typical American says!
But oh my gosh, Joseph the Yorkshire gardener in Wuthering Heights. I was literally skipping his dialogue when I first read that book. And I understand the accent perfectly - but written like that, to me, it's barely intelligable.

Here's an example:

"They's rahm for boath ye un' yer pride, now, I sud think i' the hahse. It's empty; ye may hev' it all to yerseln, un' him as allus maks a third, i' sich ill company!"


I know! I skipped most of his dialogue too, yet when I hear that accent out loud I'm completely fine!
I'm with Charlee on this. Especially if it's in first person and so all the narrative is written like that. "Fer" instead of "for" and dropping the "g" on the end of "ing" words, that ruins a book for me.


You would have HATED the knife of never letting go. Though after a while you get used to it.

I would say don't go overboard with it. If you're going to have say an cockney accent, just have the character say stuff like "innit mate" "you going down the local?" I'll get used to it over time, I suppose, because I've read books that are written in complete accent in the past , but even those I was tempted to give up. In fact, it was only because they came highly recommended that I stuck with them at all.

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