I talked with author Todd Borg again last Saturday. In his latest book, Tahoe Dark, I was amused by a pseudo-gangster accent: “unnerstand” instead of “understand.” Very Chicaguh, I mean Chicago. Todd told me he’d run into the same problem I once did when I wrote dialog for the Bjorg (my Star Trek satire Swedish Borg): too much accent makes dialog unintelligible. Todd sprinkled it sparingly, as he should.
In my soon-to-be novel, Kittygirl’s firecracker of a mother has a fast and furious Japanese accent. On Youtube, I found advice from andysunstory on How To Speak With A Japanese Accent. Replace “an” with “ahn”, “R” with “L”. But what if a word ends with “R”? “Daughtal” instead of “daughter”? I remembered Urusei Yatsura’s Lum saying “Dahling!” And there’s the matter of an older white male like me not sounding racist. “So solly?” YUCK!
I wrote (and rewrote and rewrote) the following for when Kittygirl’s mother confronts Holly at Holly’s first book signing. (I’m really wrestling with “lite” instead of “write.”)
“This glaphic novel! I had to buy anothah one! You did not lite it fah kids, but my daughtah found it in my manga stash and has not let go of it since! Until now. She loved when,” she smiled, petted the girl between pointy Kittygirl ears, and enunciated like she’d rehearsed her next line, “the princess gave up her crown.”
Many great writers say never write accent into dialog. Usually true. But my style is goofy comic book, so I offer the rebuttal of Al Capp’s Lil’ Abner. Like Vulgorilla the Slobbovian (Russian): “I got fonny for you. A travelink blubber salesman’s sled broke down…” Or Brooklyn’s Evil Eye Fleegle wanting his “goil” back: “Anudder triple whammy! I’ll keep poppin’ until my beloved Shoiley is in my arms again!” Or pure hillbilly.
Writing an accent is hard, but sometimes worth it!
P.S. I just changed “mahnga” to “manga.” To avoid confusion, that word for Japanese comic book should not be spelled phonetically.