Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WRITER WEDNESDAY: Writing with an Accent

I love how JK Rowling writes her characters' dialects and accents in the Harry Potter series. Its fun to read and the characters' voices literally leap off the page.

Unfortunately, writing accents and dialogues is not an easy task - and it's even harder to do well!

Definition: An accent is the unique speech patterns and inflections (distinguished from other varieties of the same language) that identify a particular individual.

A character's accent can be hard to portray without phonetically spelling out the words in dialogue. Unfortunately this can get quite clunky and confusing to a reader. It also slows the reader down and can distract from the storyline.

Instead of using phonetics to show how a character speaks the word "roof" (does he say roooof or ruff?), you can describe his accent in the dialogue tags. This is a great opportunity to further your MC's voice as she describes the other character's accent in her own terms.

Another way to showcase an accent is to choose a key word or phrase that your character speaks repeatedly and spell the rest of the words in the sentence correctly.


Definition: A dialect is the choice of words a person uses and how a sentence is put together.

A character's dialect is much easier (and fun) to play around with because it involves manipulating specific word choices and sentence structure. It can be the difference between soda, pop, and Coke (I'm a soda girl myself)!

Just be careful not to always pick stereotypical word replacements. Fully research your character's dialect (even speaking to people from that area) if you're not fully immersed in it yourself.

Do you write dialects and accents? What are your tips?


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