Monday, November 24, 2008

Accents?

Vicki here on Monday.

Donis wrote this week about problems and rewards in trying to capture the speech of her ancestors in her writing.

A very timely topic for me, as I’ve just begin work on a standalone novel that takes place totally in Scotland. The location is necessary in this case (either Scotland or Ireland) as the book is intended to be a fairly traditional ‘gothic’ with a very modern twist. Hands up everyone who read Victoria Holt as a young woman. (I’m guessing that no one read Victoria Holt as a young man – feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.)

You know the thing – castles, fog, moody handsome gardener, Cook (with a capital ‘C’) and something (maybe) moving in the old ruins. My problem is that I have no ear for accents whatsoever. I don’t intend for my rustic locals to speak in dialect the whole time – nothing slows down a book faster than having to pronounce every word to decipher the meaning – but I would like to toss in a bit of an accent. Perhaps just the minor characters such as those the protagonist comes across in town, or when the character first speaks, or just for emphasis.
I am still debating with myself (in my upper-class Canadian accent, of course*).

There isn’t much worse, in life or literature, than trying for an accent and failing to get it right**

Any and all advice accepted. Who do you think does dialect right, and who doesn’t?

*(Charles is one of the very few people in the world who does a Canadian accent – here is that sentence written in Canadaese: “I’m... debating with....my...self, eh?)

**Notable exception of Peter Sellers as Insp. Clouseau followed by that guy from Montreal who convinced Sara Palin that he was the president of France.

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