Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Muse-ings. Accents.

I usually read books that are written by authors who are more talented than I am, particularly where descriptive prose is concerned. It helps me find my inner voice, by challenging me.

I lost a little ground this week in writing progress because I had to go back and revise stuff that I had written while reading for my first review. Grrrrr. No worries, though, I'm doing the Malazan challenge and Erikson doesn't affect me that way. I find him very hard to read, and that, believe it or not, makes my writing better.

I'm originally from the Isaac Asimov school of prose, which is essentially plainspeak. It has a level of accessibility that still addresses complex people, places and things. That noted, I still wanna be GRRM when I grow up. Seriously. ;-)

I received my first 'critical review' return on the first chunk of my novel, and I am pleased to announce that it didn't get burned! Yay!

Which brings me to what I'm musing about this week.


Accents. If a character has a regional dialect, this brings up a couple of concerns.

One is - will it sound like an accent to others with the same accent? If two people from Boston are talking to each other, do they even realize - or hear - their Mass. accent?

You're thinking, "Probably not."

So, the question REALLY is: Should a reader hear their accent if the speakers don't recognize them? (And yes, this will leave me with a crapload of revising if I change how I'm doing things.)

Second question!
Let's say Billy Joe Bob has a thick southern accent. Yeehaw, ya'll! Giddy up! (Etc.) Does the voice in his head, his internal monologue, have that accent, too? Or as JoeBob might say, "Dunno what de're goin' on 'bout, ah tawk jes fine."

I'm of the opinion that internal monologues are never accented. Because that voice in our head is perfect.

I'm of the opinion that accents consist of two distinct attributes. One is the formation of lips, tongue and teeth to produce the words inside the head. The other is the vernacular, certain words used to describe certain things, which may sound unusual to someone from another region.

"Pop", "Soda", "Coke", "Cola", "Cool refreshing beverage." - Same thing, just depends where you're from.

Bonus question: Once you've been through a few chapters with a heavy accent, is it okay for the accent to disappear a little bit (and spare you trudging through it), since you've sorta gotten used to the characters and their oddities - and then if/when they meet someone from another region/culture, to reintroduce that accent, because it will be an unfamiliar usage of the language to the new perspective?

Or is it better to keep up the accent throughout?

I've studied a few languages (I'm barely fluent in English, sorry can't impress you here), and I'm a huge fan of regional dialect as a way to distinguish cultural gaps. But if you're not well traveled or experienced in foreign languages, accented dialogue could be a bit annoying.

I'm interested in whatever you have to say about it.

Otherwise, have a great week.


  1. V is for vernacular. And vernacular is for me.

  2. Oh, Luna, so enigmatic... no side of the fence for you? :-p

  3. I get your reasoning but to be honest I really think most people won't get that's what you are doing until you exlain it. If I were reading it I would probably just think you had forgotten or something.

    But I also think that accents can be hinted you can make sure you only do a few words as then it doesn't get too difficult to read. Like if every other word is accented it can be a bit tricky to get your head around it sometimes.

  4. Another vague answer. I'm guessing you were addressing the 'internal monologue' question? :-p

    Well, at this point, I'm convinced that no matter how I do it, the first/next editor is going to tell me to do something different. So, I'm just going to follow my own rules for now, and expect to change it later. :-D

  5. Yes, I am on the side of vernacular.

    As your girl said, accent can get difficult to read if overdone. A little goes a long long way. You get the idea, instead of tripping on phonics.

  6. Heh that wasn't supposed to be vague, sorry!
    I am of the opinion that accents are for the most part a pain in the ass, because usually they are over the top and I find them cliched and difficult to read. However if done well and not too intense they can really add depth to the characters and the dialogue.
    Accents are pretty hard to do I think especially when you are really making them up yourself. What one person likes another won't. My preference is for a taste of the accent throughout, and this includes internal dialogue as well as not dropping it. However I do not like to read a lot of dialogue which is heavily accented (like almost every word as in your JoeBob example) as this gets a little wearisome.
    Also I think that an iternal dialogue would be said in your head as the same wa you speak and don;t forget no-one has an accent to themselves, only to others. So I might have a 'Wiltshire' accent to my friend Charlotte whilst she has a 'London' one, and my internal voice speaks in the same way as my usual speaking voice, but to me thats just my voice, not my accent. I don't suddenly speak the Queens English when I am not talking out loud. Follow?
    Just my take. :-)


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