I can help you with that. The wall chart for these is at the bottom of the post.
British people pay a lot of attention to accents. People from different regions and different social classes have marked differences in speech, and everyone is very conscious of that fact.
So if, like me, you tend to write romances that have major characters from a variety of places and social classes, paying attention to accents is important. Here are a few guidelines and tips for how I do it: I never write an accent phonetically.
Everybody has an accent. Absolutely nobody speaks in a way that directly represents the spelling of a word. Think about whose accents are generally written as dialect in historical romance. Which leads me to rule 2: Accents have nothing to do with intelligence or temperament.
Anyone want to explain to me why the bumbling, aggressive Viking adults all had comic-opera Scottish accents while their open-minded, identifiable-with children spoke like West Coast Americans?
But writing exaggerated accents sometimes seems to lead authors into writing characters with the same blithe inability to read social cues as Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. However, I think it would be a shame to lose the diversity and characterization that come from characters having distinct ways of speaking!
So here are some ways to do that while still keeping it understated: Let your point-of-view character tell the reader what kind of accent a new character has. And it enables the reader to fill in the accent herself mentally if it adds to her reading experience.
Remember, there are variations in accents even among members of the same socio-economic or regional group. Some non-native speakers lose their accents almost entirely, some speak with a thick accent after living in a new country for decades.
People with accents know they have accents. They also, probably, know how other people will judge them based on their accent. Think about how differently you speak when talking to your friends, your mother, your co-workers, or a possible employer at a job interview.
Plus, people subconsciously mimic those around them. When I talk to my uncle on the phone, the long-gone traces of Brooklyn in my speech come back. Sophy comes from a working class London background but has been working at a posh job for years.
I imagine she covers up her accent much more when speaking to customers, but when talking to the hero and heroine both of whom come from upper- or upper-middle-class families she uses more colloquial diction and grammar than they do.
Make sure any slang or foreign words are either unnecessary to following the action, clear from context, or decipherable by the reader. One way to do this is use words that resemble other words. Be even more understated in narration than in dialogue.
When the hero or heroine is listening to him speak, his speech stands out to them as different. Contractions are a great tool for conveying accents. If any of you can explain it to me, awesome! In the interests of full disclosure, there is a character in my book who talks in spelled-out dialect.
Antoine was cook in a gin shop before this. Hopefully I avoided this: Do you have any rules of your own? Is there an author you think breaks these rules, and makes it work?
Do you have a favorite historical romance character with a strong non-Oxbridge accent? Tell me about it!Novel Writing, Screenwriting and Storytelling Tips & Fundamentals.
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