Reflection: Dialects and Accents

So for a little writing project I’ve been starting on the past couple days, I created a character who was Scottish. Now, nationality is just one aspect of a character, but I wanted to make him seem real, so I did a bit of research on writing dialects and accents.

Some authors have written the dialogue of a character with an accent phonetically. This may seem to give the character some personality, and make the reader see the accent, but in actuality, this is a bad idea. In the end, misspelling words to sound the way the character would say them will most likely just confuse the reader.

Several articles I read online stated that if I mention the character’s nationality, the readers will imagine their accent as they read it.

Now I found this idea interesting.  It’s not exactly something I noticed before, but when I read a book, I do tend to imagine the characters’ voices.

But what I can do is the dialect, which is not the accent, but the speech pattern common to that region.  I can look up some Scottish slang or jargon, and have the character use them.  For example, he’ll say “Aye” instead of “Yes”.  I can also look up examples in other writing, and use them as a guideline.

Unfortunately, the thing about dialect is that it’s very easy to go too far with it.  If I do go too far with the character, it could make them difficult to understand, make them less believable, or I could appear to be poking fun at Scottish people through the character.  I should have him use only a handful of Scottish words regularly, maybe use more obscure ones infrequently, and, whatever I do, make sure I don’t go out of my way to use them.

But most importantly, I need to do the research!  There are actually several different Scottish dialects, and I have to be careful not to mix words from the different dialects.  Sure, the casual reader may not notice, but somebody will.  And if they do notice, it can make the character less believable.

But in general, it’s something that will slightly alter his dialogue occasionally rather than cause me to completely rework it.  Doing it can be a risk, but, done well, it can make the character feel more real.  Anyway, I should probably get back to actually writing the story with this character.  White Rakogis is signing off!

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