In several of my books, I’ve had to write characters with accents. French, Texan, Regency English – they are all different to what I actually speak (Australian), so it takes a little more effort to get them right.
So, what do I do when I need someone to be identified as speaking with an accent?
Check for common phrases.
My most recent accent was Texan – I have a character who has moved to Western Australia from Texas. The first thing I did was to check online for articles that gave me things that Texans actually say. I didn’t only look at the ones with the cute phrases (Although they were awesome – my favorite? “He’s as busy as a one-legged man at an ass-kickin’ convention.”) but also at urban sayings as well – I didn’t want Jack to sound like a yee-haw cowboy, I wanted him to be a Texan from modern-day Houston.
Don’t go crazy.
When I was adding Jack’s peculiarities of speech to the book, I made sure I didn’t go overboard. I didn’t shorten every single word I could have, nor did I add in as many phrases as I could have. I tried to balance it up, so that his speech was identifiable as Texan, but when there was no need for the Texan twang, I didn’t include it.
Say things out loud.
I had SO MUCH FUN trying out things with a Texan accent. My accent, by the way, is dreadful, and I would have fooled no one. But using the words, putting the phrases together and listening to them was a good way to know if I was trying to put too much in, or not enough. With Regency English, I’ve been able to work out the ‘more proper’ word that might be used because I spoke the sentence out loud. It’s surprising how differently your brain ‘hears’ what you’ve written compared to what you say.
If you want to see how I did with the Texan, you can have a look at Troubled by the Texan.
For Regency English, try The Ruined Lady.