Characters with accents

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by Beethovenfan » July 4th, 2012, 4:43 pm

I personally don't mind it. In fact, it's helpful because I can't be counted on to remember that that guy is from Ireland, so give him an accent, or that gal's from Australia, or whatever. However, as it has been said, if I have to translate lines all the time because the MC speaks cockney then I'll probably just give up. Too much work. But occassionally, if say a secondary character has some kind of brogue, I don't mind it.
I completely agree about the guy in Wuthering Heights, however. I tried. I really did. Never was able to translate that.
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Re: Characters with accents

Post by Graeme o'Winnipeg » July 7th, 2012, 9:03 pm

This is a read tough one! I've been told that if you don't know dialect perfectly (as in able to speak it), then don't use it. In my most recent story, I had a character who spoke with a rough tongue, so there was no way of getting out of her accent - for all I know I may have butchered it! What I try to do with each character is talk as though I'm them, then write down how it sounds. I'm curious how you guys deal with dialects or if you have any good resources to link to.

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by wilderness » July 9th, 2012, 12:20 am

I don't mind the use a little, but I say less is more. Just a few token words to get the idea. If you're putting so many misspellings and accent marks that it looks like a foreign language, that's too much. One exception could be if the protagonist also hears it like a foreign language and can't quite decipher it. Then you can make the spellings over the top so the reader feels what the protagonist feels.

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by JohnDurvin » July 10th, 2012, 2:51 am

writersink wrote:
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!
I know we're talking about literature here, but...there's a scene in "Monty Python and the Meaning of Life" where John Cleese is playing an American waiter. His accent isn't very good, but he keeps it up--until he uses the interjection "Right!" in a way that no American would. (We would probably say "okay" or "all right".) What I'm trying to point out is that you have to REALLY know an accent to get everything right.

What I like to do is to imagine the accent saying the lines and write from there; besides pronunciation, there are all kinds of variations on syntax and grammar that make up accents, and they can be used as a guide.
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Re: Characters with accents

Post by Amanda Elizabeth » July 10th, 2012, 3:16 am

^^^ For one of my characters who is Irish I actually went back and referred to the Irish student (Seamus) in Harry Potter to see how she structured his sentences.

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by polymath » July 10th, 2012, 3:19 am

JohnDurvin wrote:What I like to do is to imagine the accent saying the lines and write from there; besides pronunciation, there are all kinds of variations on syntax and grammar that make up accents, and they can be used as a guide.
And diction and idosyncracies and idioms. Like the way a broken English second language speaker awkwardly uses articles and number agreement and subject, predicate, object agreement. Forget the dialectical punctuation, get the rhythm going and the accent struggle is half done.

These is examples.
She need bedtime.
Alton gots a bite of free lunch to be ate from the asking.
He going asleep.
Brendon's ball went through the porch window after I hit it with the broomstick.
Twenty tapwater cups were tested positive for lead poison.
The beds is made up.
Marty speaking at the union mens likes it being a politics and beer revival.
How you going be the pet shop buyer when you and them dreamers ain't got a penny bank for to rub together?

Interestingly enough, native English speakers also have diction and syntax rhythms unique to their national origins. British, Irish, Scottish, Australian, Canadian, South African, Indian, Hong Kong, U.S, and regional idioms too: Southern U.S., Appalachia, Northeastern, Bayou, Great Lakes, Midwest, TexMex, Western Mountain, West Coast, Alaskan, Hawiian, and unique enclaves throughout.
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Re: Characters with accents

Post by LizV » July 16th, 2012, 10:18 am

I'll throw in another vote for writing the accent, but keeping it light. Very light. Hagrid's an excellent example, and also probably about as extreme as you want to go. In "reality", he probably has a very thick Yorkshire or similar accent that would be unintelligible if written out phonetically. The way Rowling writes him, it's clear he has a very rough, uneducated-sounding accent, but I never had any problem following it.

I'm slowly working my way through the collected works of Rudyard Kipling, and I mostly love it, but my god the dialects in some of his short stories. The only way I can get through it is to sort of skim the dialogue so that I "hear" the sounds in my head rather than being immersed in the text. Which makes the dialect comprehensible, but distances me from the story, so any emotional impact is substantially lessened.

So that's a thing to keep in mind: If your character's accent gets stronger when she's emotional, it might be better to just tell the reader that, rather than representing the change phonetically. Otherwise you're going to be distancing readers (at least readers like me) exactly when you least want to.

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Re: Characters with accents

Post by AnimaDictio » July 24th, 2012, 12:44 pm

I'm considering making the protag of my next novel a Jamaican woman. My wife is Jamaican and uses some of the most colorful phrases I've ever heard. I don't intend to change any spellings. The word usage alone will convey the flavor.

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