Quit lolliking about an’ read this!

Gladstone_Pottery_Museum_Stoke-on-Trent_450Today’s The Weight of Words blog post began as tweets between me and my brilliant, artistic friend, Michael Ferguson. Mike lives in England, and right before the holidays, he came across the word crimbo in his tweet. I had a pretty good idea of what the word meant, but it generated a LOL and the request for an explanation.

This prompted Mike to go all ar ter toke crate on me (I still have no idea what this means!) and provide a link that would help me decipher what he was saying. At least in theory the link was to have done this.

Since The Weight of Words, Writing Toolbox, and Research Road are all present to assist other writers in need, I thought the link Mike sent would prove most helpful to anyone wishing to write in the language of the Potteries, a North Staffordshire Dialect.

As I scrolled through the list, I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that I recognized several words and phrases because I have heard them employed throughout my lifetime. I always believed them to be West Virginia-isms, but now I’m curious as to how these odd turns of phrase ended up in the mouths of my Mountain State ancestors when they have been credited to Stoke-on-Trent, England, and not Camden-on-Gauley, West Virginia.

Perhaps we shall never know…

Writing What You Hear – Dialect & Accents

There is a character in my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, who is Mexican.  For a minor character, Lucia is one of my favorites.  She’s smart, classy, and in charge of all that goes on around her.  In short, she’s the perfect foil for her boss, the intelligent, elegant divorcée, Prudence Mayfield.

Prudence is nobody’s fool, but Lucia keeps her in check when needed. She pulls no punches with her employer and sometimes their conversation is quite spirited. My initial attempts at writing a Mexican dialect were hilarious and amateur. I needed to find a way to convey Lucia’s nationality without her dialog sounding cheesy or offensive.

Assistance came from a video on Howcast by voice and speech coach Andrea Caban. My mistake was that I never consider the posture of the mouth or the musicality of the dialect when writing for Lucia. The breathy S sound at the end of words, the hard R sound, and the nasally tone were exactly what I wanted for my character. How could I put that on paper without writing ridiculous phonetic spellings that would drive the reader insane?  By describing Lucia’s accent.

Originally, the only phonetic spelling I was going to use was jew for every time she said you.  I have since decided against this so I don’t offend potential readers.  Still, when I read Lucia’s comments out loud, I always do so in her accent. I’m confident the suggestions employed helped me to better express her dialect on the written page.  Please share your experience writing a foreign character’s dialect.

Recommended sites for writing dialect/accents:

How To Do a Mexican Accent

The Dos and Don’ts of Dialect

Andrea Caban – Dialect Coach

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