I have a couple of characters in my current work that are from various places. I wrote out inflections of their accents, using a V for W's and the like, but now I wonder if that is necessary. In a book I read recently the author merely implied the accent with her descriptions, as that person spoke instead of altering the words themselves. As the reader I understood the accent was present and filled it in myself, but which is the better practice? I have seen this done both ways, but I am not sure which is more acceptable. Are there any other authors or readers with a thought on this?
Speaking as a reader, I find it rather distracting when authors show accents by changing letters of words to mimic what the accent sounds like to an English speaker. I tend to subconsciously read dialogue 'aloud' in my mind, and when accents are written like that, it sounds too exaggerated and (perhaps) unintentionally comical.
That is an interesting point. I myself have had moments of frustration in reading the accent in some books. I wonder if it depends on how this done. I am trying to puzzle it out, but even on facebook I am getting mixed opinions.
I agree with the comment above. You want to use a light touch when representing an accent, speech impediment, or what have you. Too much makes the dialogue a trial for the reader to decipher. Whereas if you simply indicate the verbal quirk in a clear but kind of minimalist way, the reader will fill in the rest of the accent or whatever for you as he "hears" the narrative in his head.
Mixed opinions on Facebook? I'm shocked. Depends on the length of the dialog and on how much relief in which you want to cast your character. Long passages of dialog are tedious to read if overly dramatized phonetically. And the heavier the treatment, the more satiric the effect. A little bit of pigeon dialog goes a long way.
Well to be fair a large portion of the people on my FB page are not writers. Only a select few from here have jumped on board as of yet. So I am care of any advice I get there. However, I think after seeing the comments here I will go with my original thoughts and note the accent in descriptions, and add a little word inflection here or there to keep it readable. I think you make the best point when you say "long passages." I could not read through an entire book full of mixed up words, without frustration.While I love Mark Twain, I have even been tripped up with Huck Finn in those books so I understand your point.
In Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte writes the words as they would sound in an accent, and although this helps me picture it a lot better, sometime it makes no sense, and I actually don't know what they're saying. Probably just inferences that they have accents would be better in my opinion:)
HI. I have actually wrote you a reply on FB as well, but thought I would weigh in on this discussion. I've seen it done both ways and think it's more authentic when you actually write in the accent (within reason). If it gets to the point where you can't understand what the character is saying, you are going too far. I think some readers get really nitpicky and start complaining that the character doesn't sound as they should if you just write their lines normally.
I really appreciated your insights on FB I needed that little extra on the Russian language. I am trying to find a good balance using the help you gave me. Thanks for that.
In one of my earlier efforts, a YA fantasy, I had the characters use accents in dialogue. Much of the critiques I received from agents and editors were dislikes over this.
I would advise, humbly, to do so sparingly. Modern slang is okay, but not everyone will get it. Be careful.
What I've done with my current work is to just note that characters have the accent, ie ... he said, with a strong Greek accent, or ... there was a slight Israeli accent to his voice.
That can be useful.
That is good to know, thanks.