Just wondering how some of you guys do this. What I mean is, when you write dialog for a character with a certain accent, do you actually write the dialog phonetically so the reader will sort of hear the accent in their head or do you just write the dialog as you normally would, but maybe toss in a few colloquialisms to remind the reader that the character has an accent? I'm going to add a British character who is an LAPD officer to the short story series that I write and would love to hear some advice on the subject. Thanks.

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You might take a look at Reginald Hill's character Dalziel. Dialect is very difficult. I can't do it. My guess is that you stick with a few characteristic phrases and avoid too much else. Also, readers should know the meaning of the words.
I second that. The fact that he makes Dalziel comprehensible is a point of skill.
Thanks for the advice. I'll check it out. I'm leaning towards your latter suggestion.
Hi Bill,

My latest novel I just finished has Brits in it. I kept it simple and it's easy with Brits and Australians. Once you mention they are British, you don't have to break your back to try to make them "sound" like it. Sometimes this is overdoing it. What you do is make sure you use words that Brits use. Now if this guy is British but has been living in the states a while, it's gonna be different from a Brit who just came over.

A British person who's been living here for a while is gonna speak just like an American, just have an accent. But if it's a Brit that's been in England recently (living), you gotta make sure he talks like it.

Use words Brits would use but don't overdo it. Brits that have been in England for years, would use common British terms like, "bloke" (for guy or dude), "bullocks" (for bullsh*t or rubbish), and "shite", not "sh*t:. This is what you pay attention to, the little things. But still, you shouldn't go having him be overly British to the point he sounds like a cliche. Throw these words in every once in a while for effect but you don't need him going, "bloke" or "bullocks" every two minutes, LOL! Just every once in a while to keep in tune with who he is.

See it's harder with Brits and Australians because it depends on the individual. There are Brits and Australians who have never been over here but speak like Americans. They don't even use certain words Brits and Aussies use. But then some do so it's your call. Look how they do it on television. Most of the Brits (who are on things taking place in America) talk just like Americans except they have an accent.

So, just remember to keep it simple and not to let it overwhelm you. Trust the reader. Just saying he's British should be enough, LOL! The readers are more concerned about the story, not how he talks. Sometimes us writers make our work harder than we should. I've read many books on writing and most say that overdoing it distracts the reader. I've put books down because a character had an accent so thick I couldn't understand what he was saying. It takes away from the effect. Him being British should not become the focus of the story and take away from the plot.

By the way, I've read British crime novels and sometimes they use different words and sometimes they don't. And these are novels written by British writers.

Best Wishes!

British novels are not necessarily reliable for this unless they're imported from Britain. For some reason, publishers in the U.S. think Americans won't understand what's being said, so books are often 'Americanized' before the American version is published.
Hi everyone. First post here.

Stacy. The word youre looking for isnt "bullocks" its "bollocks".
Unfortunately the word "bollocks" is also used as a slang/swear word for "testicles". Sorry about this in a first post everyone!.
There was a UK court case back in the late 70's in which a record store manager was prosecuted by the local police for displaying the punk rock band "The Sex Pistols" debut album "Never Mind The Bollocks Heres The Sex Pistols" in his store window. The prosecution were applying the sexual interpretation of the word. The case was thrown out of court when the defence (funded by Richard Branson's Virgin Record Company) proved that "bollocks" was an "olde" English word meaning nonsense.
Also "shite" as an expression would be mainly used by a character from North-Eastern England, Scotland or Northern Ireland. Very very rarely by anyone from Southern England or Wales.

As this is my first post I just hope that the site wont automatically censor a post containing the words above.
Well, as a first post it was informative and interesting.

I'm hearing "shite" all the time, as well as "she-ite" from people pretending that they are not saying "sh*#", so I don't think that word alone will denote an accent. Maybe it's just a substitute word that has caught on around here in New England.

With how much Gordon Ramsey uses the word "bollocks" I'm surprised there's a tamer meaning!
"use it once by way of demonstration so the reader gets it into their head for the next time that character speaks--if that makes sense."

Sure makes sense to me. That's exactly how I do it.
I've done lots of accents/dialects--everything from coastal Massachusetts to a kind of generic eastern European to Vietnamese immigrant to Oklahoma TV preacher's wife. For me it's more a matter of listening to rhythms and use of idiom. Modeling also helps--pick someone you know pretty well and try to write dialogue the way they talk. my model for the Vietnamese accent was my ex-wife, who's Singaporean Chinese. My model for the coastal Mass thing is lots of people (I lived there for eight years), my model for the Oklahoma accent is a kind of amalgam of a number of female TV preachers, and the eastern Europeans all talk like Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle. I don't do the phonetic thing--it's annoying to read and inevitably cheesy and reductive, and implies a kind of stupidity or illiteracy on the part of the speaker.
Thanks for the replies. Stacy, I've started to write my current episode and I decided to do as you suggested and just throw in a few different British slang words but keep the dialog firmly "LAPD vet". I once had a neighbor from the UK who kept her accent, but talked like us, throwing in a "shite" now and then. Jon, I like your idea of modeling a character after someone. I usually do that, using some of the guys I work with. I use a lot of the dialog based on conversations we have, I just adapt them for police officers.
Thanks everyone for the help. I do appreciate it.
- Bill
I agree with Jon (again). You might want to give one phonetic example if the accent is really heavy, but even then I'd find a way to show it's an example. (Example, give the sentence, then somethinglike, "At least that's what I thought he said. It sounded more like...")

After that, there's a lot you can do with grammar, colloquialisms, and rhythms of speech. You just have to plant the idea of the accent in the reader's head. Make him wade through it every time gets old in a hurry.
Glad I helped, Bill! The story sounds interesting and I'm sure you'll do great!

Best Wishes!



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