Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Ze Accent

Via Wikipedia
Ve all know zat ze evil villain must have ze accent.

I mean, how else vould ve know zat he vas evil?

Does anyone else find it amusing that evil villains in American stories usually have accents?

Maybe it's our American snobbishness, or maybe it's just ingrained in us from the WWII and Cold War periods where the villains in all the stories were Nazis/Communists/Russians.

I don't know why it is, but I do find it amusing.

The types of accents range from German to Russian to French to British to some made-up in-between language, like Gru's:

Accents usually come with stereotypes as well; for example, the cold British snob, the cruel German general, the handsome but vicious Spanish spy, the calculating Russian lady.

If you do write a character (especially a villain) vith ze accent, keep in mind these three things:

1. Listen to ze real accents   

Don't just assume you know what Russian sounds like and switch out all your the's for ze's. Zat vould neither be professional nor honest. 

Don't know anyone who speaks with a Russian accent? Zat is vat Youtube is for, mein comrades.

2. Don't spell out everyzhing

If you've ever read Huckleberry Finn, you've come across a passage like this:
“Sometimes you gwyne to git hurt, en sometimes you gwyne to git sick; but every time you's gwyne to git well agin.”
Via RT
That might be all well and good for Mark Twain, but please please please don't use it in youse awn writin'. Not only is it hard to read, but it can also interrupt the flow of the story as your poor reader tries to decipher  vat you are actually saying.

How many times in zis post have you had to stop and go back and read zat odd spelling? Zat is not vat you vant, mein comrades!

3. Avoid ze stereotypes

Is the accent part of the character or the character part of the accent? In other words, why are you writing about a character vith an accent? Is it so that your character will be scarier? More stylish? Weaker or dumber sounding? 

Don't give your character an accent just because. It's a part of backstory, of where they grew up, who they grew up with. It's not an accessory. Character before accent, mein comrades!

Follow these three tips and ze accents vill be much better. Until next time, mein comrades!

Do you have a character with an accent? What are some accent stereotypes that annoy you?
Let me know by commenting!


  1. AND if you are going to use an accent, be consistent! Don't let your cockney character drop his h's only some of the time. Great post! And great way to use up the dreaded "Z" in your challenge.

  2. i am a southern accent connoisseur =)
    my lead female fakes a southern drawl as an undercover agent. i over did it and my cp reigned me in.

    yay for finishing a to z!

  3. This is a very awesome and helpful post! Thank you!

    New Follower~
    Konstanz Silverbow
    A to Z Co-host

  4. Rose - yes! I forgot about that one. Consistency is very important. I've noticed in some books a character starts out with an accent and loses it halfway through the book. Not good. :)

    Tara - good for your CP. Southern accents are fun to write and listen to you - but you're right, you don't want to overdo it! :)

    Konstanz - Thank you!

  5. Hi Lauren, nice to meet you. Great post on accents. The three tips are super.

    Thank God, my villain in the MG book I am querying does not have an accent. I felt it would not enhance the story, so my villain is accentless. He just has a bad habit of frowning and scowling a lot :)

  6. Enjoyed your title post and left a comment. Thanks for sharing the link.

  7. Ah yes I sink you hev a point zere! Great post. Love it! :O)

  8. Yay! You made it to "z" - congrats, Lauren.

    Despicable Me is kinda HILARIOUS! ;D

  9. Don't spell out everything koff koff Herge koff koff

  10. Rachna - Nice to meet you, too!

    Yes, if it doesn't enhance the story, it's better to leave the accent out! I think often it's just thrown in because it's cliche and easy.

    Madeleine - Zank you! ;)

    Rissi - Yes, I did it! All the way to Z!

    Despicable Me is one of my favorite Pixar movies. It's so sweet.

    Ava (Spidophile -

    Koff? Yeah, good old Herge. Zis is not ze way to write ze accent, Herge!

  11. I just found your blog, but I have to point out the fact that Despicable Me is not a Pixar movie. :)

  12. Kathleen - Oh, you're right! It's Illumination Entertainment. I get all those animation studios confused. Thanks for pointing that out. :)



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