Sunday, March 04, 2007

Mental Accents

I once created a character from Australia, and I had an utter blast writing him. In my head, I could hear his voice as clear as day. I could imagine him saying all sorts of things, and coloring his speech with Australian slang was so easy to do. To this day, he's one of my favorite characters.

Now, I'm working on a character - a boy - who grew up in England. And for the life of me, I cannot hear his voice with an accent. I can't imagine how he sounds, or in what ways he's unique among the other characters he's sharing the stage with. I really - really - want him to have an accent. I want British slang to roll off his tongue. This is key to who he is and to his story, because this is a story about feeling apart from things, and his very language serves to distance him from his peers. Too, when I write from his point of view, I want to use this as a way to give him a distinct voice.

So why is this that I can't hear him when my man from down under came so easily? I suppose I could invest a few days in Dr. Who, hoping that I pick up the eb and flow of their speech. Or just hang out on the BBC America channel and hope some of it wears off. Maybe check out some books-on-tape narrated by British actors, play them in my sleep and it will just kind of leech into my subconscious and come out in my character's voice.

This is driving me mad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

but where in the UK? this is a pretty crucial question - there are a whole lot of different accents over here, it's not just a question of upper-crust Bertie Wooster vs. Gor-bless-ya-Mary-Poppins. Although you would have to factor class in too - how posh or bit-of-rough do you want him to be?

You probably need a UK beta reader to check your rhythms and usage. I'm trying to think of the US series recently with a UK character who swooped and slid excruciatingly between Lord Snooty and a young chavster in a souped-up Saxo. Deeply painful.