There Are Accents In The Eye

I read an interesting blog yesterday by Claire King .  It was a timely reminder to pull back and  look at the bigger picture when writing, to look at things from a different prospective.  Or even picking up your character and putting them in a different setting to see what happens.

The book I’m writing at the moment, is all planned out, researched and has been bubbling away in my head for over a year.  So why am I struggling to write it?  Reading someone else’s words, so obvious when you think about it, re-inspired me.  My book was no longer the comfortable pair of old shoes, sitting in the back of my wardrobe, instead I pulled back and looked at it again with fresh eyes.  The plot is good, it’s exciting and even if no-one wants to publish it, I will be proud when it’s finished.  So in my mind, I was a giant, picking up my protagonist between thumb and finger, before releasing her into a new setting, and sitting back to see what would happen.  It certainly broke my writers block.

So now the next dilemma, accents.  Do you write in local dialect (obviously if the plot/ character dictates it)?  I’ve read books, where the writer had got it wrong, and like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, it really grates, detracting from the flow and jarring you out of the story.  Get it right, and you pull the reader in deeper adding a new dimension and giving the words creditability.

It’s a fine line, a really thick accent, as in the original Uncle Remus stories can be hard work to read.  I was lucky that my Granny spent many hours reading them to me, easily coping with the words and bringing the characters to life.  No accent, and will the reader really see the book they way you see it in your head?  Will the characters loose their realism?

You have to have an ear for it, to capture the exactness of it.  Personally I love the sound of French, Italian and Yorkshire accents, and to put them in the story, it’s all about the words and the phrasing you use to carry it across.

But remember, to quote Thomas Hardy in Far From the Madding Crowd, “There are accents in the eye which are not on the tongue..” How the people act and look are just as important as the words that come from their mouths.  Drawing back and looking at your protagonist in new ways, helps you see these.

Another excellent writer (and blog I follow), Nicola Morgan also has some interesting (and far more articulate) pointers on how to make a book more believable. 

A Life By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

One of the writers I follow on twitter (@rebeccaebrown) recently ran a competition on her blog ( where you had to answer a simple question to win a copy of her book:

What would your ideal alternative life be? 

Easy I thought! I love creating and breathing life into my characters and this had the added bonus of self-indulgence.  Me, me, me, me, me.  So I sat down to think about what I enjoyed, what I was passionate about and what I’d want to take with me into my alternative life.  Like desert island discs.  My fingers hovered over the keyboard.  What would I take with me and what would I leave behind?

Childhood dreams popped straight to the surface….writer (doing that), dancer (too much like hard work at my age), princess (please don’t judge I was about age 5 when I went through that phase)….well this wasn’t getting me anywhere.

How about a character in one of the many books I lost myself in as a child?  Wendy?  I longed to live in Never Neverland, no parents telling you what to do, being able to fly.  Or Lucy in Narnia (I still carefully inspect the back of interesting looking wardrobes), but then you’d have to put up with the White Witch.

Hmm I was beginning to suspect that I spend too much time immersed in a children’s world and if I did take on this new life, what would I do with my own children and family?  I know they often drive me insane, and I would be happier if they didn’t answer back so much and had better bladder control (just the toddler I hasten to add).  But I would really miss them.

So Russian spy? No I’m too cowardly. Astronaut? No, too claustrophobic.  How about a rich woman in the 1920’s-1930’s?  (Blame Agatha Christie for that one).  No, I love my freedom too much.

I kept going round in circles until I finally decided that life is pretty good at the moment.  I’d want my life but with more sleep.  All the rest of things I’d change are really down to me.  To work harder at my writing and relationships, to take more chances, put myself forward more and to do something with my degree (Middle Eastern Studies).  Oh and I wish I’d started it all a lot sooner!

So the competition is now closed and I didn’t submit anything, but thank you Rebecca for such an interesting question.  It certainly was food for thought.

Feel free to let me know what you would have put!