Verbal Diversity in the Black

Accents are everywhere.

Growing up in Boston, I was privileged to experience one of the more iconic accents America has to offer. I’ll admit to a slight bias, but it’s up there.

America has a more accents packed into our borders than almost any other nation on this planet. Due to the historic immigration waves, almost every world culture has left its mark on our language. From the southern drawl of Georgia to the Canadian influence on Upstate New York, from the Nordic influence in Minnesota to the French laced dialects of the Louisiana bayou, accents are a part of life.

If that’s the case, why aren’t they in books?

Traditional outlets tell authors not to try to use dialects because they are distracting to the reader. Do I agree with this? I guess to some degree, especially if it’s a tough dialect to decipher.

Do I follow this rule?


Byron’s speech pattern is loosely based on an East London Cockney. It fits with my picture of Byron. Is it hard to understand? I’m guessing it can be at times, but it drives me nuts when everyone speaks the same way, especially when the characters are from geographically divergent origins.

I modelled Shi off my interpretation of the southwestern drawl. Her speech is easier to understand with a few slangy words and the constant dropping of the g in any -ing word.

In my defense, these are supporting characters. They add dialogue flavor without overwhelming the sentences. The narrator’s voice is consistently common American, but I want my characters to stand out. Their voice is the easiest way to make this difference.

I am watching Justified right now, and I love the accents. I wish it was easier for authors to capture the unique speech patterns of their characters.

“Did you see that homerun? It was fun to go to Fenway Park. I can’t wait to go next week,” Mike said with a Boston accent … it just doesn’t hold the same power as, “Hey kid, you catch that homah? Fenway was wicked awesome, can’t wait to hit up the game next week.” Any reader can understand what’s being said, but it just carries a little more realistic weight.

Honestly, I feel like it falls in the same category of Show, Don’t Tell.

And, I haven’t heard anyone complain about the way my characters talk, so I’ll keep on writing the way I want to.

In the meantime, keep on reading, keep on hiking, and keep on flying the Black.

3 thoughts on “Verbal Diversity in the Black

  1. /.

    Writing is mostly a catharsis for the author. Those who choose to dive into the worlds that have been created enter at their own peril, or pleasure. The way you write is unique to you and style should not be determined by a publishing house.

    Unless your prose is completely unreadable, then everyone just thinks you are insane.

    I don’t think that Hemmingway cared much about what his publisher thought when sitting on the beach in the Caribbean or chasing U-boats off south Florida. Not that you are an unstable, alcoholic bent on grand adventures culminating with a double barrel shotgun to the face or anything.


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