My Dearest Fellow Conspirators,
There are certain stereotypes associated with certain groups. The English are stereotyped by Americans as being a little aloof, a little uptight, and a little dedicated to dropping their “h’s.”
I’m a writer. It’s not my place to say what’s true about that and what’s a bunch of bollocks. In fact, my job is, if anything, to embellish the bollocks to make them more appetizing to the auditory palette.
(If you don’t believe that’s a good metaphor, just ask me.)
As much as possible, my goal is to entertain without offending, so I do my best not to stereotype.
There is a difference, however, between stereotypes (which are prejudicial, self-serving, and mean-spirited) and generalizations (which tend to be more innocent, empirical, and justifiable).
Which brings me in a roundabout way to my topic: How to handle accents in writing.
Accents are a touchy subject to begin with. Even in the most innocent cases, attempting to portray a character’s accent can come across as ignorance, mockery, or even just plain meanness.
Believe me, I’m not sitting over my laptop, twisting my moustache (I don’t have a moustache), and trying to send up an entire city.
I’m just trying to capture a cadence, a tone, an essence…a distinct je ne sais quoi that adds flavor and panache to the world being built and to the people who inhabit it.
That’s a lot of responsibility.
So how to handle it as a writer?
Well, the Conspiracy Chronicles takes place mostly in the United States, so the subject didn’t come up much. Characters in Recruitment, Render, Rebellion, Survival, Sacrifice, and Synthesis have their own voices, of course. But those voices tend to fall under the general umbrella of a relatively unaccented Middle America.
In Travelers, though, the 7th book of the Conspiracy Chronicles (which is also the 1st book of the Transcendent Trilogy), Kress and her friends get to experience London!
Which means they get to experience Londoners.
Which means they get to experience the way a horde of (fictional) London kids talk.
And that means…accents! Woo-hoo!
So the language in Travelers will look, feel, and sound different because we’re meeting kids who are outside the experiences and comfort zone of Kress and her Conspiracy.
In Travelers, you’ll meet folks like Grizzy, Ledge, and All-to-Pot.
Grizzy might say something like, “I once ‘ad a duck named ‘erbert who used ta snag rides ‘round the farm on the back o’ me goats.”
That might come across as odd to the eye, but it’s intended as candy for the ear!
If you find yourself getting hung up on the way something’s being said at the expense of what’s being said, quit it. 🙂
After all, for a writer, the goal is to capture a mood and a milieu. This is fiction, not transcription. Just like with the American accent, I hear the voices in my mind’s ear. (There’s a “mind’s eye,” so why not a “mind’s ear,” right?)
Are these phantom London voices I hear According-to-Hoyle authentic? Accurate? I don’t know. If I knew, I’d probably tell you.
At the end of the day—or at the end of the book?—this isn’t about how people in general speak. It’s not about how Londoners necessarily speak. It is how Kress and her Conspiracy of friends hear and interpret the way a select few people speak in their ravaged, post-apocalyptic, newly-Medieval, and completely fictional world.
My advice to writers: While you’re busy making something fun, make sure you’re not accidentally making fun of anyone. My advice to readers: Gobble it up and let yourself have a smashing time getting lost in the sights, sounds, smells, and, yes, in the accents of a wild, whacky, and wonderful world.
So, please enjoy the effort and know that I did my best to entertain you!
I’m no ‘enry ‘iggins, after all.
Thank you for reading!