Return to Content How to write accents and dialects:
When I have to, I speak Southern. Last year, I moved to Vermont after thirty years of Southern living. Behind the Raleigh neighborhood I left was beautiful, historic Oakwood Cemetery, founded in and home to Confederate graves. The Old South was all around us there, in the azaleas, the awkward Civil War reenactments, the hundreds of Victorian-era homes of the neighborhood, and the obelisk memorializing the Confederate dead.
Yet New England retirees populated the neighborhood with drought-resistant landscaping, rain barrels, and biodiesel vans parked in the driveways of their antebellum houses. On my street, the quintessential Bubba lived next door to a gay couple who drank wine on their porch while he washed his truck and played with his amateur radio station.
I loved watching the culture collision unfold. The urban South, I believe, is wrestling with an identity crisis. It reminds me of the sign on a downtown Raleigh biscuit joint, Biscuit Station: In the urban and suburban South, many locals live in close proximity to shopping centers and start their mornings with store-bought lattes, but like me, many had grandmothers who picked tobacco and uncles that made moonshine, mothers and fathers that raised them with thick accents.
Like me, they remember when the South was more regionally distinctive, but they have since assimilated to a time where a shopping center in New Jersey could be a shopping center in North Carolina.
Suburbia feels modular—most people have access to the same ideas, chain food stores, and clothes. The once stark regional identity is quickly becoming more generic. However, in writing workshops I often see people trying to write Southern accents, as if a character living below the Mason-Dixie line still necessitates a phonetic dialogue guide for readers.
A You know enough about Southerners to write it well—nothing reveals a tin ear like bad Southernese. Think Nicolas Cage in Con Air. B The character has earned it—by being an older southerner, living in a marginalized or bottlenecked environment, or consciously choosing Southern mannerisms.
I believe the number of Southerners with writeable accents is declining. Writing Southernese is as much about the arrangement of words and word choice as it is the sound. Take this example of how word choice, as opposed to a writeable accent, works—a line from a George Singleton interview about an old school southerner seeing llamas for the first time: Sound is important, but if an author makes it too important, the concern tends to mock the character.
When writing Southern characters inauthors must consider the age of the character—older, native Southerners are much more likely to have writeable accents than an average character of Generation Y or younger.
Educated Baby Boomers who have lived in other regions or have traveled extensively will likely speak with moderate accents, if any. All accents, in my opinion, are a risk to write phonetically—particularly moderate ones. I acknowledge that most people who were born in the South, attended college there, and have never lived above the Mason-Dixon Line still have recognizably Southern ways of speaking.
But do they merit written accents? I can look across three generations of my family and see significant variations in accent and word choice our accents are a mix of non-rhotic Virginia Piedmont and Coastal Southern and only Grandma would earn a slightly writeable accent.
Creole or Gullah—another story. Both my grandmother and my father could keep dinner tables laughing with their sing-songy tales of drunk uncles on tricycles and pool games gone awry. Go now and be involved in the world.Jan 25, · Honestly, if you plan on writing an accent, that can get grating and irritating to your reader very quickly.
This is in effect especially with well-known accents like the Southern, New York, and Bostonian accents, that have exaggerated vowel sounds and you end up with something ridiculous written on the page.
I am a southern author, living and writing just outside Atlanta. I drink sweet tea and say “ya’ll,” but also love chai and can do a mean Indian accent.
Accent definition, prominence of a syllable in terms of differential loudness, or of pitch, or length, or of a combination of these.
See more. Spoken English shows great variation across regions where it is the predominant language. This article provides an overview of the numerous identifiable variations in pronunciation; such distinctions usually derive from the phonetic inventory of local dialects, as well as from broader differences in the Standard English of different primary-speaking populations.
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Fold the desk down and you reveal a convenient storage area with two adjustable shelves, bill organizers, and a corkboard. How to Give Your Character an Authentic Dialect.
By: Guest Column The writer who thinks she is writing dialect because she is clipping the ends off of words and stretching out others is often taking delight more in her own experimentation than in any real sense of story. rather they lead us to it.
The accent is there for the reader, but.