Saturday 5 January 2013


I did a guest post for Morgen Bailey a couple of months back on character accents in literature. It was prompted by an entertaining episode whilst writing my short story collection, Splintered Door:

I decided to post for help in a writing forum. The appeal was short and to the point: “I’m looking for someone to help convert a story from UK English to US English.”

The responses were less than encouraging:

“One word… Why?!”

“I agree… why? If you really must (???) run a Microsoft spell check.”

I was flabbergasted. Nobody seemed to understand why, whereas I didn’t understand why not.

Then came this statement, which summed up their aversion to conversion:

“Why rewrite it at all? It sounds so much more intelligent in British.”

Confounded, I set out to prove the importance, and usefulness, of character idiolect.

You can read the article here:  Intelligence – It’s How You Say It

As for the picture of D. H. Lawrence, well:

If you’ve read Lady Chatterley’s Lover, you’ll notice that Mellors affects a thick colloquial accent to disguise the fact that he was once a high-ranking officer in the army. Mellors (and through him, D. H. Lawrence) knew all too clearly the social perception of inflection.

How your character speaks is all part of the wonderful art of distraction in storytelling.

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