Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Well, I made a major decision as I wrap up my current book. See, the nature of the world in this book makes it likely that one would meet people from all over the world, and from lots of different eras. My main character is American but of Mexican descent; a supporting character is Spanish of some kind, and another is Scottish; lesser characters are Southern, Persian, British, and others. Not all of them speak English, but most of them do. That means a lot of accents to understand and apply, and besides the accents you have idioms unique to the individual culture. This is tough.

What I did while writing the book was write each character the way he/she sounded in my head, and for most of them this worked well enough to get the accent across. My Scottish guy was the exception.

He never sounded Scottish to me. I really really wanted him to be Scottish. Really really. However, although I'd decided he should be Scottish, I'd done very little research on how to actually make him seem Scottish. I thought I'd be able to layer it in at my leisure. I'm finding it's not that easy. Also, there's no real reason to have him be foreign, except that I wanted lots of different places represented.

So now I'm on the verge of completing the book, and changing "your" to "yer" ain't gonna cut it. And I started asking myself, "If he didn't sound like a Scot in your head, why did you make him one anyway, you dimwit?" And the answer is, I didn't. I didn't make him a Scot. He's an American who sometimes says "wee lass" and "are ye out of your mind?" See? Now, I could go and make that "are ye out o' yer maind?" and that would be fairly Scottish. But to go back and spend an extra month to add that accent to an entire character's worth of dialogue wouldn't have a good cost/benefit ratio.

So Caellum is now Scottish-American, if there is such a term. He's still a rakish musician, still mysterious, still over-sexed, but I think he'll be relieved to stop speaking with an accent. He wasn't very good at it.

{ 8 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. LOL If ya be liss'nin! That's good! I'm sure Scottish-American is just fine. He seems good with it too, so that's bonus points for you. ;)

    Glad you're pleased with your edits so far hon. It's been a long WIP and it's such a kick to see you this close to completing it. :)

  2. Scottish-American is a term, so is Scots-American. I know a few, who do and don't get along with the Irish-Americans I know :). I think your choice is a good one.

  3. Thank you, Fal. I always say I only need a couple more weeks, but this time I think it's true. :)

  4. That was another pitfall, getting my Scot mixed up with an Irishman. I hear they dislike that very much.

  5. Speaking as a Scottish-American, I can attest there is such a thing as Scottish-American, or, as we should say, 'Scots-American', which is the same thing as Scots-Irish, who are a bunch of people that have been here for at least two hundred years and if you ask them what they are will say: 'American.' So there you go...

    But on the subject, I personally have always thought that being Scots is more a matter of attitude and outlook than anything else. It's proud, it's a bit put-upon, it's Taking pride in many of the inventors, generals, and great men of the British Empire while slightly despising the English. It's sharply logical, except when it's slightly inebriated. It's bitterly happy, and happily bitter. It's being a stone-cold, gritty, realistic, hard-bitten romantic who's willing to throw a punch to anyone who points out his contradictions.

    I think you made the right decision, Sherri. I think that if you're going to have someone from another country in your book you have to conceive of that culture in terms of a Mentality.

  6. Oh yeah, I hear ya. The lesser characters, I can give a hint here and there because they're not onstage very long. Caellum's nationality was low on my priority list, and sometimes you have to make hard choices. Glad you all think I did the right thing. :)

  7. I oughta blow you some major sh!t after all the times you harangued me about writing dialects as they sound! AARRRGH!


    Good luck getting it done!

  8. Thanks! You have to do enough to make the accent roll through the reader's mind, not so much that they have to read each word phonetically. I think the best way to do that is focus on phrasing and word choice and punctuation, but you can't get away from some phonetic spelling. I knew I hadn't achieved that balance in any way, so I didn't do it at all.

    So I don't know exactly why this post aggravates you, but if it's the way I did the title, that was tongue-in-cheek. :)


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