A Question of Accents

I’m  currently working through my partial rough draft of my next novel, the Swans of Good Bye Tol Eressea, Hello EldamarWar, and one of the more challenging things I’m dealing with is the question of accents in writing.

In myth and fairy tales, most of the tales about swan shifters are either  Celtic or Germanic. Since my urban elves are more Celtic, I decided to make my nomadic swan folk Germanic barbarians with bad attitudes. The German accent was  a good fit for their more hard edged approach to life and provided some contrast to other beings in the world I work and play in.

So I gave myself permission to write their dialogue phonetically.

and badly…


Which was great fun at first, but left me with a partial manuscript that was more difficult to read for the average reader, and which slowed the action while readers puzzled out what the swans were saying. The swans all sounded like the Swedish Chef with anger management issues.

So now I’m left with the exciting task of taking all these bits of conversation and reining them way in for the sake of readability.

For any of you who may find yourself in the position of writing accents, here’s a couple of tips of ways to do it better than that

  • Do research on the various speech patterns that indicate a person using a language different than their native one (for instance, not using contractures is often a sign that this is not your native tongue)
  • Listen to the accent. Watch videos with people from this culture speaking. Talk to people with this accent if you can
  • Make a list of all the little individual speech patterns that make up this accent
  • Then choose 2 or maybe 3 of them to use in your writing
  • Don’t use all of the speech patterns you can find. If you do, you make your character look like a joke or a stereotype, and you make your writing less readable.

Hope that it’s a help. It’s time for me to dive back into downplaying accents.

Catherine Kane


For more information on Catherine’s books, “Adventures in Palmistry”, “The Practical Empath – Surviving and Thriving as a Psychic Empath”, “Manifesting Something Better”, “The Psychic Power of Your Dreams”, “Magick for Pennies” and her urban fantasy “The Lands That Lie Between”, all from Foresight Publications, click here

and for the Kindle version of Manifesting Something Better, click here

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