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Another question for readers



I was going to put this in the writer


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I'm with you on this. :2thumbs: Occasional short bits of appropriate accent and referrence to it after that to remind us if it is important to the story. For me it isn't an understanding thing so much as an unnecessary distraction. But hey whatever will help you to move beyond stuck will be good. Hope you are doing ok with all that is happening this summer. Pax Steve

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Guest Kitty


My number one rule is: make it easy for them to read. Otherwise, most people just won't bother, or else they'll miss half of what you're trying to say.


For accents ... what I've seen work is what you and Steve both said. First set the stage, let them know where the person is from. Then remind us of it by occasional "Southernisms", for example. Maybe the person uses "y'all" a lot. Or you could refer to the Southern drawl. But writing the dialogue exactly as the person would say it is way too much work for the reader. Plus it slows the story down.


Another pet peeve of mine along the same line is giving characters in a story similar appearing names. For example, the protagonist is Josh, and his friend is Jason, and his father is Jared. It's too confusing. The shapes of the words and the letters they contain are visual cues. When people are reading along, you don't want them to have to stop all the time and think, "wait, who said that?"





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Most writing coaches will tell you to take it easy when it comes to dialects. A little bit goes a very long way. The same goes for non-English words or phrases.


Regional dialects are often unfamiliar to readers outside the region. If I wrote in New Orleans Creole, no one would understand me.

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There's a danger in trying to immitate a style of speech that is not your own.


People who haven't spent a lot of time in the South often get the usage of when one would say "y'all" and when one might use other variants, for example. If you get it wrong, it sounds terribly phony to a native speaker, even if you don't do the stupid Hollywood trick of using "y'all" in the singular. And then there are the microregionalisms. Your story may be set in Georgia, but the people sound like they're from Tennessee, so you keep wondering when and why they moved, but the author never tells you. The author may not have a clue about the difference, and not realize there's some 'splainin' to do, Lucy.

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Yup, I agree with y'all. It's far easier to say, "I'd love to take you to my bedroom," he drawled in that cute Texas accent of his," than to write, "Ah'd luv to tike yew to mah bay-ed-rume." But dialog is tough to write in the first place. I think that's one of the attractions of your stories, Dom. Your dialog is realistic. It sounds like teenagers -- well, educated teenagers, at least. And there's a lot of it. A story need some paragraphs of description now and then, but what really moves the story, and what is really attractive to the reader, is good, interactive and expository dialog.



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I agree with everyone else. The accents are only amusing when they are a minor character and the accent is somehow important. Otherwise...just tell us he drawled, purred or whatever and we'll fill in the blanks with our own idea of what it should sound like.

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I would hate to read a story where everything a character said is written as the accent sounds. It would just really annoy me. I think that the best way to show that a character has an accent is to put the accent in the dialogue once in a while, and to make sure that the readers know that the character has an accent. In my opinion writting a characters dialogue the way the accent sounds would really affect they story in a bad way. I am not sure if I would be able to even read the story.


I hope all is well with you.


Kurt :D

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William Faulkner dealt with this issue in all his stories. Because his style is well respected, I reviewed a couple of his books before replying. He appears to agree with everyone else here: avoid misspelling to indicate pronunciation: go easy with "New Yawk", "cah", "tailfethas" and such. If you must indicate pronunciation, do it only once (like explaining a common abbreviation.)


On the other hand, much of his dialog is faithful to diction: "He kilt her." (Not a misspelling to indicate accent: "kilt" was accepted spelling in that dialect.) "She ought to taken them." "It's them durn women". (Again, "durn" was accepted spelling in that dialect.) "It's a outrage." He doesn't take this to excess, and it doesn't give me a headache. It think that's because, like you and most of us, I read in whole words, and if the words are not whole, I have to work a lot harder. Malformed sentences are much less trouble.

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I agree with your concern about excess use of accents in writing. It may be appropriate on the stage but it can be overdone in a written medium. Many of us who speak with an accent are educated to the point that we write - and would prefer to read - in Standard English. There are so many accents and dialects in English that their use in literature disenfranchises many - perhaps most - readers


I think you have a number of good suggestions from earlier responses.


I have another problem with many writers, and that's misspelling or the use of an inappropriate homophone (e.g. there/their/they're). Spellcheck is great, but it doesn't identify the wrong word spelled correctly.




People who haven't spent a lot of time in the South often get the usage of when one would say "y'all" and when one might use other variants, for example. If you get it wrong, it sounds terribly phony to a native speaker, even if you don't do the stupid Hollywood trick of using "y'all" in the singular.


Hollywood gets a lot of things wrong and it has considerable influence on popular culture. As a native southerner, I'm painfully aware that many people here are now using "y'all" for the singular. (Of course, that could be Yankees who have moved south for the better quality of life.) What really bugs me is hearing a new plural form "all y'all". :thumbdown:


Dom, hope y'all're having a great summer! Still looking forward to WT12.

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I think the trick is really to remind readers from time to time, rather then every other word.


Being from Canada, I know many people who have gotten upset regarding TV shows that over use the word Eh. Even if it's truth with some of the people I know, over using that word at the end of every sentence, I've decoverd that people are more content with first knowing where the person is from and then secondly getting the off and on reminder of that note.


Ie. Dude, although is starting to become a trend it still commonly thought of a slang used for sufers. If the writer first explains were the character is from ie LA who has this great tan becuase he was sufering all the time there. Then used the word Dude everyone once in a while to remind us, 'oh yeah he's from LA.' That what I find words best.


I think a few other fans of yours have already stated something along these lines I just didn't want to feel left out. :lol:



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I also have a real problem with reading things when they are writen like that. Usualy when I start reading something where the author has over done it I only get through about a page before I get fed up with it and stop reading.


Bardeara, I notice that too, and as someone who uses the word alot, I find it quite annoying when it is over used on T.V. or in movies. Being reminded of how they speak or where they are/are from is ok, as is throwing in a BIT of slag (where appropriate and used right), just don't over do it.

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I remember buying a book many, many, many years ago that was written entirely in a dialect invented by the author. I didn't realize this when I bought it. I was unable to get passed the first page, and threw the book away in frustration. I now make it a policy to always read at least one page of a book before I buy it (unless I know and love the author). But that doesn't really address the question.


You can convey a great deal about a character's background by word choice, grammer and rhythm (yes, written passages have rhythm) without resorting to bizarre spellings and convoluted contractions. Dom, you already do a very good job of giving each of your characters a unique voice. No need for embellishment.


Oh, and Kitty... right on about the confusing character names that start with the same letter (or sound)? :2thumbs:



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I'm Dyslexic, but I read in a weird way (even for Dyslexics): I taught myself to read before I began "real" reading lessons in school (they started in first grade in my school). I don't read word by word, but rather phrase by phrase, a sort of speed-reading technique (I just stumbled into it, as I had no idea how it was "supposed" to be done). This method works very well for me, but it certainly has it's drawbacks! For one thing, I'm the worst proofreader on the planet. When I see "unique" words, such as what you mention, it throws me for a loop. I can't read it without tremendous effort.


Another pet peeve of mine along the same line is giving characters in a story similar appearing names. For example, the protagonist is Josh, and his friend is Jason, and his father is Jared. It's too confusing. The shapes of the words and the letters they contain are visual cues. When people are reading along, you don't want them to have to stop all the time and think, "wait, who said that?"



This is a pet peeve of mine, too. I'd assumed that it was just a difficulty for Dyslexics, but this indicates otherwise. For me, it's the hardest when the names begin with the same letter and are also similar sounding.

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Think about the rhythm of the person's speech and find a way to represent that. Lars Eighner does this thing where he never uses contractions, and it perfectly matches the rhythm of Texas speech , even though Texans use contractions all the time. I wouldn't stick in a lot of comments like "he said in his Southern twang." I'd mention it a couple of times, max. And if there's a big pronunciation situation going on, I'd choose one or two words to demonstrate with. And I'd think about the consequences of the accent. Does the accent sound harsh to the narrator? Does it sound clipped, or slow-minded, or is it hard to understand?


A funny thing happened in sixth grade when I moved from a rural neighborhood in California (where a lot of my neighbors were from Texas and Oklahoma) to a neighborhood in Philadelphia where most of my fellow students were black and from Virginia, and the rest were from Appalachia. The teacher had a student give me a spelling test for placement. I wrote down the wrong word for every word she gave me (but I spelled the wrong words right!). I didn't run into the Philadelphia accent until I went to high school.


But I think the key principles are these:


-- use the minimum clues to establish the accent.


-- use clues that also reveal something else about the story, the plot, the characters, etc.


-- let every detail have some degree of consequence.

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Well basically I think dialects are fun to play with, but they shouldn't be used excessively in anything serious. For me, as Glomph mentioned, familarity with the dialect in question is key to whether or not I'll enjoy it. For example the one you used in the example was very pleasant to me and probably wouldn't bother me or prove challenging to read. The one The Journeyman used would be a little less pleasant and a little more difficult for me, but still not turn me off if it only appeared a few times per chapter. Other dialects, however, are huge turn offs, and all but impossible for me to read.


That said I enjoy expressing myself in varying creative ways depending on the medium For example when it comes to IM/Chat I love alternate spellings and very much enjoy playing with them. Not so much used to express accent as just a way to spice up an IM/chat box. For example my current favourites are the "'dja's" (did you)


-howdja, whatdja, whendja, whodja, whydja


I also like ya for you. Gonna, coulda, sorta etc.


I don't use them everytime, just now and then for fun. However, I don't even really speak that way, occasionally I might but only for fun or if I'm trying to make a particular impression (friendly, casual, disarming etc.). Oh and unlike everyone else I don't type, "y'all", mine is, "ya'll". This is because for me the word isn't formed from "you" and "all". It's formed from "ya" - which I often use in type for "you" - and "all". In other words were I to annunciate the whole thing I'd be saying "what did ya all do?" not, "what did you all do?".


In actual verbal language my favourite way to express myself colourfully is by "appropriating" words, phrases, and styles of speech from groups of people. I only ever mean this in a playfully, fun way and never in a mocking manner, and I usually do it casually WITH the people in question or only if the people I'm with will definitely realize that I don't mean it as an affront. The large potential for this to be misconstrued in writing is why I normally only do it in person. Ohh and on the topic of "dude" I often use the word, but only affectionately with guys that I like (platonically or otherwise). I wouldn't call a lady dude (as I've heard many people do), and I wouldn't just say it to a random guy like a waiter or a cashier or something.


When it comes to physically writing by hand, something I absoletly abhor, about the only playful thing I do is with capitalization. I think both print and cursive uppercase L's are very elegant, beautiful things so I purposely make every word starting with an L capital (I don't capitalize within words though). I do this to a lesser extent with B's, D's, and K's. However, for phyical writing I don't do any of the things I mentioned for IM/Chat...it's just too painful and unpleasant with physical writing. I REALLY hate to physically write, which sucks because it means everytime I want to express myself in writing (which is fairly often), I HAVE to be at the computer, sometimes I try to take a notebook to the park, but the unpleasantness of the actual writing detracts from any enjoyment I might otherwise gain. :(


Anyway for story purposes I'd probably try to avoid laying anything on too thick.


Blah, sorry I rambled. Take care and have an awesome day!



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Guest Kitty


Ohh and on the topic of "dude" I often use the word, but only affectionately with guys that I like (platonically or otherwise). I wouldn't call a lady dude (as I've heard many people do), and I wouldn't just say it to a random guy like a waiter or a cashier or something.

Here's what I say: dudes and dudettes. :boy::2thumbs:
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Oh, and as for the similar names, not only do they confuse the reader, but occasionally the author.


Come to think of it, didn't Jude appear at some point in DD, or something like that?



Yep. But that was more the product of trying to write two stories at the same time. Although, I do like my J names.


Thanks for the advice everyone. Very helpful, and pretty relieving, too!

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Yup, I agree it is a balance between accentuating the character and dialect and being easy for non native speakers to read.


As an Englishman, reading a story written entirely in a Geordie dialect is extremely difficult to read, because I can't relate the spelling to a pronunciation. On the other hand, written at important parts of a conversation - it helps to set the character in the mind.


Eg: 'Tha knows' he said smirking, 'he's a reet pretty lassielad' - That's Yorkshire dialect by the way. Or; The elderly man stood up, and poking his finger into Egberts SillyWhistles face 'Thee had better be careful pokin' 'round in t'others affairs'


Of course most of this board being American or Canadian may well be lost with the accent to be read here.


By the way a Lassielad is an old Yorkshire term, and not used very much these days -and to the Yorkshirepersons - yep you're right I'm a Kentish boy so I've probably got it all wrong.

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Just from the non native english speaker : accents are a pain.


It's funny though but in very small dose. Like for minor characters or if the character is actually supposed to be incomprehensible.


I have to carefully read the sentence, then imagine how it sounds and finally try to guess with what "real" english words it bears enough resemblance to make sense.


The Urban Dictionnary also became my best friend.

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If you were looking for constructive input, I think your stories are already perfect in this respect. They

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Unless...could he be starting a new story about a gay call center employee in Bangalore? :thumbdown:


So, you're not looking forward to that one? :P


Actually, the reason I asked the question is because I am working on something where a main character has an accent, but his

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Babycakes, you can write random thoughts on a popsicle stick for all I care, I'll still be interested in reading them.



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Yes, go light on the phonetics for dialect. An occasional reminder of what dialect the character has (time and place) with a few choice words here and there will do what you need as a writer. Exceptions: If a character's dialect is very different from the other people in the story, then you'd highlight it more. If it's important to capture how the characters sound, as local color, so the readers don't imagine standard English, then you'd use as much respelling as you need to get your point across. A little goes a long way. I happen to like language and dialects, but as an editor and reader, I know that many other people have trouble with it. That has to do with language ability, and not with dyslexia, but yes, dyslexia would aggravate it.


If you're thinking of a story where they all speak in an unusual accent, you have a couple of ways to go. One is that if everyone speaks that way, you only need to show a few key words or pronunciations that wouldn't be usual elsewhere. The other is to show more of the accent, but even then, not to overdo it.


Accent shows a person's place, time, education, and cultural background, and it varies a little over time. Some people pick up accents easily. Others won't ever change their accent, even if they live somewhere else most of their lives. Heh, and a "country" or "ghetto" accent doesn't necessarily mean someone isn't smart, though they may mask or unlearn their original accent. Likewise, if someone is from a big city, they aren't likely to have a thick regional accent, although it doesn't rule it out.


I've read about half of Desert Dropping so far, and it's mostly excellent. -- So I know that you do really well with dialogue and characterization. I'd say you already have a good feel for when to show accents, and you'll find what's comfortable for you to write.

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ALTHOUGH -- Mark Twain did an oustanding job of conveying dialects. He is an exception. His ear was dead-on. It does make his dialog a little hard to read, but once you get in the rhythm of it, his wriiting is so elegant that it carries you along.


Of course, it got him in huge trouble, and actually continues to even now. His portrayal of Jim's accent is heavily criticized as being racist. Actually, Twain (Samuel Clement) gave everyone an accent. Truth be told, his portrayal of Huck's accent isn't very flattering, either. But it does create a sense of time and place.


I think the rest of us need to be minimalist in our approach to dialect. I was just rereading something I did, and I cringed when I read a few passages where I gave in to the temptation. It's jarring and awkward.


Word selection and word order are the most important. If we know the character is a California teenage surfer dude, we know it's pronounced "dewd" -- It doesn't have to be spelled that way. If we know he's a Minnesota (or Canada or Wisconsinn or Michigan or North Dakota) snowboarder dude, we know it's "dood". Our own minds will make that adjustment. It isn't easy, but we can create natural-sounding dialog appropriate to the age and region using normal spellings.



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Go easy on the accents. They're hard to maintain and easy to mess up. The reader can usually do a better job with subtle reminders than you'll ever managed.


And it seems like the most emulated accent in American literature is a "Southern" accent. Every writer manages to f**k it up, blending a bunch of different dialects into some bastardized version that doesn't exist anywhere in the South.


It annoys the crap out of the people who actually reside in that region...

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