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Roleplay usually creates potential for characters of all kinds to interact. Verbal communication is a significant part of character development, since the way people speak and interact is one of the core parts of personality.  

 

When you're writing characters with certain regional accents/dialects, how do you tend to convey that to make it translate to the readers inner voice? 

 

Do you 'write how the character speaks?

IE

Quote

Any dog that'll suck 'n egg's lower th'nna possums belly

 

OR

 

Prefer to describe how the character speaks? 

IE

Quote

Old Mr. Eben leaned forward in the carriage seat, and in a heavy southern drawl sneered, "Any dog that will suck an egg is lower than a possum's belly." 

 

Do you use a combination of those methods? Have another way entirely? 

 

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I use a combination, sort of. I don't like reading or writing full accents. It's hard for me to understand. And I don't want to engage with material that's hard to understand, y'know? But I also like having something kind of distinct in my character's speech - one never uses contractions in her speech, one frequently uses archaic expressions or lengthy words, and one is very casual and uses a lot of slang phrases. 

 

for accents, I'll write something like, "Naw, there's just folks that like t' gab. There ain't anythin' to worry 'bout, so long as you're careful. Ya shouldn't be takin' chances in this city anyway." 

 

As opposed to, "No, there's just people who like to talk. There's nothing to worry about, as long as you're careful. You shouldn't be taking chances in this city anyway." 

 

ETA: the main character I wrote with an accent was a canon character, so I didn't mention that he had an accent, because anyone familiar with the character would know that he had an accent. But for original characters that had an accent, I would mention it in my first post, tagged onto some dialogue. 

 

"Naw, there's just folks that like t' gab," he said dismissively, a heavy southern accent coloring his words. "There ain't anythin' to worry 'bout, so long as you're careful. Ya shouldn't be takin' chances in this city anyway." 

Edited by Jaxx
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*chuckles*

 

I prefer reading descriptions of accents rather than see them written into dialog. For one thing, like @Jaxx, I do not want to have to refer to an Urban dictionary just to read posts or go out and buy a dozen regional slang books.  For another, no offense y'all, but being a southern gal (an old one at that), I really loathe how southern accents get portrayed in Hollywood and, quite often, when being written. With that in mind, I rarely, if ever, try to write accents. I am sure some people from Queens and the Bronx feel the same way about how their accents are represented in text, film, and on TV! I have one exception, I have a couple of Scottish characters and I will slip in typical Scottish phrases here and there...and words, etc.

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As a non-native English speaker, I can do slangy words because they're easy to look up, but when letters start getting substituted with apostrophes (aposthropi? lmao) excessively and random words merge into one, I'm never replying to that thread again.

 

The first example in the OP would cross the line for me basically; I have no idea what "th'nna" could even mean.

 

So, yeah, accents are a no from me. I'll use longer and fancier words, or for example "shall not" instead of "won't" if I want my character to sound, I don't know, fancier? And vice versa, simple words and sentences for like a peasant girl, and might even sprinkle in the occasional "yous(e)" or Scouse slang if I feel adventurous. 

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Everyone's got an accent (even the people who say they don't have one, they just think it's "normal" for them) so I mostly stick to identifying which country they're from and including something descriptive that will highlight whether or not they sound foreign or not depending on where they are at the moment. Sometimes it's easier to keep it simple rather than get caught up in someone being from this town in the West Country and they have this particular way of saying that particular word, and so forth and so on.

 

I have a pretty special dialect in my native lang myself though and I know it's kind of ridiculous to "do the accent" in dialogue - a lot of the dialect words are spelled completely different and only phonetically sound close to the "standard" and sometimes not even then. It's a common saying that even other people in the country can't understand us. So I lean heavily on identifying markers in descriptions - like, describing an accent as Norwegian and noting how strong or weak it is. The people reading don't need to know the particulars of the accent unless they want to - like youtubing a video or something - but they have the opportunity to decide what their character thinks of it. Like if I say a character has a Norwegian accent with a flavour of British pronunciation, one might assume that they grew up with British media as opposed to American, and maybe a character wants to comment on that!

 

I can't see myself switching my v's with w's in dialogue (a Norwegian accent has a tendency to do that, like say "willage" rather than "village"), but I might note how the tonal weight impacts it. Norwegian accents tend to go up and down like a rollercoaster, someone's called it "musical" to my face, but I think they're full of shit.

 

However, slang words are important to me, particularly if they're notably different. An Englishman will talk about his "local" but an American might just say the name or "the bar." I've been playing someone from Boston who has largely lost the accent (so no "pahked the cah at hahvahd yahd" nonsense, which is painful to both read and write) but still says words like "wicked," since he still grew up there and kept the vocabulary.

 

If I want to convey a sort of... looser attitude in the character I often involve apostrophes like 'cause, c'mon, s'not, but only if they're still understandable, I could never write "th'nna" because it barely registers as something understandable. But if the character is deliberately thickening their accent to be a pain in the ass or make a point or whatever, then I often write it out to just highlight how stark the difference is.

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I like a mix of both, actually. I enjoy writing out how my characters speak as well as describing how it may sound. We have  several kingdoms with their own languages, some of which are partially developed into existing, usable languages, as well as a pidgin and unique setting-based slang. Using these things is immersive and entertaining, and after 10+ years, I am known to use some of these words in real life as if anyone  actually knew what  they meant out of context. Ha.

 

But, that said, sometimes my way of writing ways of speaking is as simple as not using any compound words (no didn't or can't or won't, etc.) or just describing how a character has a particular emphasis on consonants to as complicated as cutting out certain letters, dropping g's in ing, and using plenty of delicious world-specific slang. 

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Going to echo @StormWolfe on this one. Being from the south and watching Hollywood mercilessly butcher your accent definitely makes you wary about writing one. Ever watched Swamp People? Yeah. No. Nobody sounds like that here. Sorry. I can't even tell you how many New Orleans or general Louisiana based sites I've come across then rejected based on the way the admin wrote their dialogue bits. It's one of the first things I check. It annoys me that much. 😅

 

So obviously, I never try to write out an accent. I don't like reading that style of dialogue, and I dislike having to remember how a particular character pronounces a certain word. Describing voices, language, accents, and inflections is just too easily done in the words around the actual dialogue for me to bother with slapping it up between the quotation marks. That isn't to say no one should ever write an accent in, I'm sure it's done well/fine/legibly somewhere by some author. I just personally have not come across it yet. 

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I used to write it out and it was awful to read back on. So these days, I describe the accent, just as I do with tone and volume. I do sprinkle in slang terms that the character would use, given their background and origin. And occasionally I will also add in a word or expression in a character's first language. But even then, I'll often say something like, "He swore in Spanish" rather than rattling off a bunch of words. 

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So working in a call center environment for as long as I have I’m going to throw some hard facts out there:

- Not everyone can tell where your from by a simple description. I’m a born and raised California girl turned Arizonan that over 3/4s of the people I spoke to on the phone guessed I was from the Midwest (primarily Minnesota) for simply elongating my o sounds and phrases like “don’t ya know” and “as far as it goes”.

- Not all dialects of a place sound the same and what you think is “butchering of an accent” may well be just a dialect of that accent you’re not familiar with. I have friends from all around the world and all over the United States. Not one Southern accent sounds the same as the next.

Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. This is the same for generalized dialects and slang. I’ll be honest I’ve watched enough reality TV to see where they get it from. Some of you need to watch Swamp People.

- Slang is not slang in every language and unfortunately if you want to be accurate you may be forcing people to google definitions of things. In America, for example, we use the term “stroller” but in the UK and Australia they use the term “pram”. Using stroller for an Australian character is off dialect for them but most Americans won’t understand the term. In fact if your character understands the term they better know Australians/UK people or they better watch a lot of dramas from those places.

Another example is “trunk” versus “boot”.

- Another bit of accents and dialects are terms of endearment. @StormWolfe educated me on a term that is specific to her part of the south that means something there. This is the same for things like terms of endearment. “Babe”, “sugar”, “sweetheart”, “sweetie”, etc some of them are region special (“Dorogoy” for Russians comes to mind).

 

For me, I like to write my dialects as best as I can. I include as much regional dialect information as I can remember when I’m writing it or can google while I’m writing it. I don’t always go for the “unreadable” version but it doesn’t mean I don’t use a “dunae” for a dunno or don’t know for a Irish or Scottish character talking too quick to understand.

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^ adding to the above...my "accent" often gets me questioned as being Australian or British. It happens a lot that people are unsure. So it's not easy to detect and i don't even think i have an accent as i write things the same as everyone else seemingly does. So really, unless you state the person's voice sounds a little XYZ i'd not bother trying to type things out. 

 

I also struggle a lot when writing as Marvel's Remy [Gambit] due to constantly having to double check his accent because he doesn't speak American/english and throws words in that suit his nationality. I couldn't happily write English and then type he has a XYZ accent, it just....nope. I couldn't. I had to make sure his dialog reflects it, so unless the character has a strong dialog that alters their speaking language i wouldn't care about say writing in Fluent French. I'd happily say english then (spoke in french) or use a google translator for the french bits, add them then bracket the english saying (translated in google: insert english translation)

 

But overall, i'd prefer the google method translating because it gives a visual for the language. So if i'm writing with someone who doesn't speak the language in character they might 'hear' words used and find them cute or funny and it adds to the dynamic of the thread rather than writing (said in french) as then i only have to google it anyway to know what the words are to again...potentially use it in my reply too. 

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I sort of do a combination. I don't enjoy reading accents, I find it very distracting because it pulls me out of the moment when my brain has to unscramble another character's speech; if it's mild, I don't mind as much. If a character of mine speaks in another language, I put the actual language in the sentence and then at the bottom of the post, I have the translations.

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It really depends for me. I try to mix up phonetically writing dialogue and simply describing an accent for the sake of clarity. That being said, I do try and flavour the dialogue with some regional slang while still keeping the message clear, or giving context clues in the post to figure it out. That being said, I struggle with writing proper dialogue for American characters. Being from Canada, I got a good mix of Canadian and American media growing up, and it did something to my brain where I constantly forget that Americans don't use terms like going for a rip or chirping, and they don't mix the imperial and metric system in the bizarre way we do. 

 

Outside of American characters, I'm a lot better about it. Except with Jamaican characters... I grew up in a heavy Jamaican area in a city that's already naturalized a lot of Jamaican Patois, and have learned that most people don't understand a word of what I'm saying when I'm actually speaking to them, and it gets even harder when you're writing out your wagwan, arie, and choosay.

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Echoing a lot of what has been said before, I prefer to write accented dialogue as normal, throwing in one or two words of dialect or rephrasing sentences so they read as someone would speak in that accent. E.g. in certain parts of Yorkshire, people would say 'it's time for us tea' instead of 'it's time for (our/my) dinner'. It's a fine balance, though. Accurately portraying an accent (even when you're not dropping g's and inserting h's and swapping your v's for w's) and writing something that makes sense to 90% of readers is a real challenge. 

Sidenote: the Plague Dogs by Richard Adams is a book that has some good examples of Lancashire dialect, but I think the only reason I could understand what the hell this certain character was saying, was because my other half had told me a handful of 'old Lancashire' dialect words that his grandfather used to use. So you know. I don't think it's just us RPers who struggle with this.

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