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?
The quick reply.
You should ask yourself a few questions. First, how much harder will it be for the reader to understand the dialogue? Will it slow him down? How do you determine what is the proper standard?
How much more time are you wasting as you try to write this way? What is the purpose?
You are unnecessarily burdening yourself and the reader with superfluous details that should be narrated. There is absolutely no objective standard. And without an objective standard there is no form of communication
Personally, I like the implied accent better than the actual re-spelling of things. I find the re-spelling thing distracting...
My take is that you should go very easy on dialect and/or accents. In the days of yore it was fairly common to fill a story with words imitating life, but to most of today's readers that gets old in a hurry. Personally I feel a few judicious words here and there to indicate the speaker's voice will do the job. Unless you're another Alice Walker, I'd go very easy on the homespun dialect.
In my latest effort, The Sand Bluff Murders, a character who has deliberately developed a western drawl to run a horse ranch throws in a few things like y'all, I reckon. Let's get some leatheh under you and we'll ride. A few things here and there just to stay in character without going completely overboard.
All that''s just my personal view so don't quote me.
I'd say that as soon as the accent becomes the defining feature you lose that character and your writing descends into caricature. For instance, say you have a conversation between two French people. Will they sound the same just because they're both French? Hopefully not. So I'd suggest:
Concentrate on developing a voice for the character - what words do they use; how sophisticated is their vocabulary; how do they inflect their sentences etc. How does how they speak tell us something about them?
As others have said, just put in the odd word here and there if you really feel it's needed.
I have a character in my book from the American South and I tried writing her narration as it would sound. But then I went back and re-wrote it in her voice rather than her accent . My test readers all agreed it was much easier to read and the character came across better.
Hope this helps!
As a reader I find it can be distracting. I'd recommend going for the implied, or just stating the person spoke with a slight Irish accent, that kind of thing. However, make sure that their ethnicity is reflected in their dialogue. I think that's more important that the sounds of the specific words.
Mark Twain was a master of this, check out his works :)
Yes, I have run across this with a wide variety of reactions. In my first book of a trilogy set in Scotland in the 1300's I used a more heavily accented Scottish brogue. For example, I dropped the f in of which looks like o', dropped the g in ing so it looks like in'. Anyway, it made perfect sense in my head and for most of the readers who either heard me speak or just got it. However. . . I found in many places that kids or teens or even adults who had any sort of learning disability, small or large, had trouble sticking it out with dialogue that seemed difficult to their eyes. So my advice to you would be to limit the accent to direct dialogue, and keep it to a minimum of specific instances. From book one to book three I consciously lightened the brogue. It's still consistent, but a smoother easier read. Good luck!