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Using accents while staying legible


My character is using hardly legible accent, or simply accent which is not comfortable to read for a reader, see example below.

“Ye've caught us in th' middle o' supper. Seein' as how yer no bleedin' or in immediate danger, I’ll let th' others finish their meal before callin' them t' help.

As you can see it is not comfortable to read at all, but I would like to maintain foreign feel of the character, including his strong accent which is his distinguishing mark and makes him stand out of the crowd. The character is also very talkative so his lines are long with tons of idiomatic expressions, but after testing chapter I found the accent is simply too annoying to read (and write haha).

TLDR: How do I use difficult accents while maintaining comfortable legibility

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1 answer


Don't fall into the trap of assuming that you have to act out how dialogue is spoken. Yes, some author do try indicate every nuance of sound in some character's speech, but most readers find it highly annoying.

Fortunately you don't have to rely on acting it out. Your book has a narrator. You narrator can simply say that the character had an incomprehensible accent the first time they speak.

To remind the reader that this character is hard to understand, you can then throw in just a few hints of their accent. Not enough to be illegible, but enough that we remember that this character speaks this way. So you might do something like this:

"I'm gowink down to the river."

Bad example, but by indicating the sound of just one word here and there you can remind the reader without confusing and them.

Also, remember that people who speak very differently from those around them probably have more differences than just their accent. Accents will normalize with contact, so there has to be some cultural and experiential differences as well. Think about what would this person say that is different, not simply how differently they would pronounce the same words.

1 comment

I tried several other versions in my testing chapter. And I think this is beyond my skill for now. I just cannot get it right. I decided to simply mention it few times, when he meets somebody new, that he is hard to understand. Mostly I rely on his noticeable different behavior like bow instead of handshake and when paying he never gives money from hand to hand but always put it on desk first etc. Prahara 12 days ago

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