Accents Can Help Your Fictional Characters
Just like in real life, accents can tell a lot about a fictional character. An accent serves as a reminder that an individual is unique. It sets the speaker apart from those without accents. When a fictional character speaks with an accent, it may help to give the landscape a wider breadth because the reader imagines an individual who comes from far away. Accents reflect realism. The world we live in has many accents, both domestic and foreign. Using them with your fiction can help to imbue your characters with greater depth.
How to Give a Fictional Character an Accent
In short, you have two options for giving your character an accent. The first is to change the way your spell the words. The second is to tell your reader that the character has an accent. Both methods have pros and cons.
Portraying Character Accents through Spelling
When you change spellings, you guarantee that the reader will know the person is speaking with an accent. Unfortunately, some readers might not know what you intended the misspelled word to mean. Words altered too much can frustrate readers. When misspelling words to portray an accent, make sure they are not too different from the original. If words are far removed from the original, then you had better come right out and tell the reader what the character is saying. Afterward, the reader will be able to more easily digest the word or words the character is speaking differently. Characters who pronounce certain words differently can add a special flavor that is quite enjoyable.
Describe Character Accents
When you don’t change the spellings of words, you need to tell your readers about accents through description. You can simply state the type of accent, such as “Russian accent,” or you can describe exactly how the character pronounces certain words. The downside to this method is that you need to remind your reader occasionally. The text does not show the accent so the burden falls upon the narrator’s voice. Don’t believe you can tell your readers once and have them remember throughout an entire book. You will have to drop hints and reminders repeatedly if you want your readers to imagine the accent you hear in your head.
Character Accents Elicit Reactions
An additional way to demonstrate your characters’ spoken accents is to have other characters react to them. Is the foreign speaker hard to understand? Is the sound pleasant or annoying? Your other characters might make comments about an accent or, at the very least, they should have a thought or two about it.