Just recently, I’ve read a few books that use phonetic accents for their characters. This is all fine and well if you know the accent well or if you’ve done thorough research into it. But, the ones I’ve read, have not.
As someone who comes from Edinburgh (well, born there and raised in a town just 10 mins away), it is really infuriating to read a “Scottish” accent. Why? Well, I have family from Glasgow and near Edinburgh, so I’m pretty familiar with these two accents. When they’re used wrong – in the highland, Hollywood style of “och aye the noo” – it really irritates me.
I’m no stranger to giving honest reviews. If you follow my reviews here or on Goodreads, you’ll know that I will always be honest and constructive in my complaints. When it comes to accents, I am absolutely going to stand up for my home accent. But, to be polite to the author, I always check my words before posting anything and I never post negative comments on their blog tours, other reviews or on their personal posts.
However, just recently, an author directly challenged my comments in my review, publicly. This is frustrating, because I will never challenge them directly on their post, to disagree with how they are representing the accents they’ve used. Unable to defend my home accent, I chose not to keep quiet, but to choose a different path. I want to help solve the problem.
So, how to fix it?
When writing an accent, try to get someone who HAS that accent, naturally, to beta read your story. This is especially important if you write the accent phonetically. Beta readers are there to make your story better, so if you’ve accidentally got the accent wrong, they can tell you that it’s wrong and how to fix it, before it goes into print.
Why is this important?
Well, just look at my comments above and my reviews. For someone who is from Edinburgh, reading their accent being misrepresented is frustrated and makes them angry. You do NOT want to make a reader angry right off the bat, because of an accent that doesn’t belong. An angry reader makes an angry reviewer and I had to write my reviews for these accent books two or three times, to work through my anger and limit my words until I could be constructive and polite.
As an author, I always write my review remembering that the book I’m reviewing is someone else’s baby. It’s a piece of hard work by another person and that person is likely to read my review. Having got many bad reviews myself, some constructive and some purely mean, I know how much it hurts to get rude reviews. I would never want to do that to another person.
But this is the problem, angry reviewers – who write immediately after reading the book, without moderating their feelings – definitely won’t stop to think how their words will be taken. They won’t stop to calm down and write their review constructively. They will write with heat and passion and anger. And everyone will see it.