Divas on Dialogue: Accents and Dialects

This post by Janine Savage originally appeared on Publishing A Book Is An Adventure on 4/15/14.

Accents and Dialects

Who doesn’t love listening to an accent or an entertaining dialect, especially one delivered by a sexy model or actor? Accents and dialects make people more interesting, probably because the sound is interesting to listen to and offers a fresh perspective to the words being spoken. It also adds another layer to the character, makes them feel authentic, and gives clues to the background of the speaker.

But does that same auditory experience translate well to the written word? Depends on how you handle it. As a writer you depend on the reader to do a lot of things while they read your book. One of those things is how the characters sound in their heads. This is as individual as the readers themselves are. Just as every reader has an image in his or her head of the characters, there is a voice to match. So is simply saying, “he spoke with a heavy Italian accent” enough for the reader to go on if you don’t infuse that character’s dialogue with special spellings to show the accent or dialect? Yes and no.

One of the issues with using accents and dialects is stereotyping. Perception can lead one reader to think the accent or dialect is authentic while another is insulted by it. And when phonetic spelling is used to illustrate an accent, the reader could find it too difficult to decipher if it is overused. This becomes a distraction and may cause the reader to abandon your book if it’s too difficult to read or comes across as gimmicky. I’ve abandoned a number of books for this reason.

 

Click here to read the full post on Publishing Is An Adventure.

 

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