Monday, May 31, 2010

Listening for the accent

A friend told me once that she hears my voice whenever she reads my writing. It's a woman's voice with an English accent of course, and my friend says she likes it. But I wonder sometimes, how will I write a Texan if my accent stays the same?

I know I can write with more than just one English accent. Sometimes I leave off endings of words, skip syllables or sounds and write Mancunian. Other times I'll be prim and proper and write a landed Londoner with a mouth full of plums and silver spoons. But what if my character's an American teenager, like in my Hemlock Edge stories. Will everyone hear the words with an English accent, or will only my friends?

I've read a few books recently where the written accent was very much part of the tale. What's Really Hood, edited by Wahida Clark, is a book of street stories told in the language of the streets. What impressed me particularly was how easily readable it was, the narrative text maintaining the same street accent till all the voices were clearly heard.

The Broken Blue Line, by Connie Dial, is set in Los Angeles and told in the voice of a police detective. It's not a first person narrative, but again the way the words fit together, the things that are noticed, the flickering thoughts as eyes check every corner, all reflect consistently the way the character speaks.

Connie Dial has police experience, and Wahida Clark knows the streets, but Time Among the Dead, by Thomas Rayfiel, is another book told with an accent perfectly suited to its tale. I'm quite sure the author's not a Victorian English gentleman, but he writes one very well.

I guess I'll know I've finally got it right if my friends start hearing American teens in my words. Meanwhile I'll listen well to the voices in my head and work on rendering their accents more closely than mine.


Aubrie said...

You have an English accent? Neat! I have an American accent with a little bit of French Candian.

Ann Best said...

What a fascinating post! I clicked on the links. How I would love to read all of the wonderful books that are out there. So many and not enough time in a day! But I've bookmarked them for future reference. Thanks.

Bearman said...

Great now I can't read your posts without hearing Eliza Doolittle

Kathryn Magendie said...

People always ask me where I am from - some people say they can hear "Southern" in my voice, but sometimes they wonder ...where...where kat?