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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Screenwriting Discussion    Screenwriting Class  ›  Dialogue in accents? Moderators: George Willson
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Nolan
Posted: July 31st, 2017, 5:10pm Report to Moderator
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Hey guys,

When writing dialogue, I've always been one for writing everything correctly.  For example, "Lard tunderin jaysus by".  Those of you not from Canada may wonder what the hell that means.  Those of you from Canada (or possibly just the east) will know that that's a common phrase in Newfouldland which is "Lord thundering Jesus boy".

My question is, would you write it in your dialogue as "Lord thundering Jesus boy", or write it out as it's said, ie; "lard tunderin jaysus by".  I'd probably lean towards the correct way, and just making note in my character description that he/she has a heavy Newfoundland accent... but then I'd worry that the way I intended it to come across wouldn't happen.

Anyway, if you have any comments on that, I'd love to hear them.

Thanks!

Nolan
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eldave1
Posted: July 31st, 2017, 5:31pm Report to Moderator
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For me, it depends.

In the example you gave - I had no clue on what the line meant when written with an accent. If you think that few people will understand, then I would write it the way you suggested at the end of your post. The inverse if it is a more commonly understood accent.


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Steven
Posted: July 31st, 2017, 5:35pm Report to Moderator
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Instead of writing in accents, write in "regional dialogue." For example if someone says "bollocks," or "proper" when describing something, we could pretty safely assume they're from England. I'm basis thing off Guy Richie films, by the way.

There are other typical words/phrases if you look them up, for just about every area of the US, and other countries.
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Nolan
Posted: August 1st, 2017, 12:13pm Report to Moderator
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Thanks for the advice!  

Nolan
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JonnyBoy
Posted: August 1st, 2017, 1:17pm Report to Moderator
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I would strongly suggest doing what you said: noting their thick accent in their character intro (and perhaps a parenthesis above their first dialogue block).

Writing it out phonetically will just slow the read down, which is something you usually really want to avoid.


Guess who's back? Back again?
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Nolan
Posted: August 1st, 2017, 1:47pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from JonnyBoy
I would strongly suggest doing what you said: noting their thick accent in their character intro (and perhaps a parenthesis above their first dialogue block).

Writing it out phonetically will just slow the read down, which is something you usually really want to avoid.


Yeah, that's a very good point.  
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Dustin
Posted: August 1st, 2017, 5:12pm Report to Moderator
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I have no idea what any of them mean. Lord thundering Jesus boy? In what circumstances would the phrase be used?

Makes no difference to me as a reader. I'm usually pretty good at deciphering slang when the context is present. I've read most of Irvine Welsh's novels and I can think of three that are written in Scots slang. If you know what you're doing and are good enough to pull it off, then write how you want to.
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Sandra Elstree.
Posted: August 1st, 2017, 5:39pm Report to Moderator
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Wow, that's a heavy duty question.

In your example, I'd say write it as it sounds, but note at the beginning it's a regional dialect. That expression I think needs to be written as it sounds, but I don't know how the industry looks upon it.

The authentic sound, if you know it and aren't "conjuring it" from the net or whatever sources will ring true and be a benefit to your script I would think.

Sandra



A known mistake is better than an unknown truth.
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TheReccher
Posted: August 2nd, 2017, 11:37am Report to Moderator
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Haha. I never heard of that phrase myself. But I'm from Toronto.

If a character being an immigrant from another country is important to the story, than I put his accent in parenthesis. This might be heavily opinionated, but I find if it helps with the script's brevity, do it. Putting it in action comes off a little clunky IMO.
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AlexW
Posted: August 3rd, 2017, 3:29am Report to Moderator
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An option i took with my latest screenplay is noting a character has a Germanic accent that i'll only hamper readers with occasionally. And i throw some phonetic bits in now and again when i feel it adds to the moment - and to remind the reader about his accent. But rule 1 - you can do what the fuck you like - as long as it makes a good read.
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George Willson
Posted: August 3rd, 2017, 7:57am Report to Moderator
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I'm in the camp of "It depends." It depends on whether the phrase is easily understood when read for the sake of everyone involved in the production. If you look at the script for the musical Oklahoma, that accent is written into the dialogue. Everything is spelled phonetically. Of course, it was also written by two established theatre monsters who were right there to explain every word.

Besides writing it proper and writing it phonetically, there is a third option. You can treat it like a foreign language and add a translation line. As such:

                        NEWFOUNDLAND DUDE
               (thick Newfoundland accent)
       Lard tunderin jaysus by
              (translation)
       Lord thundering Jesus boy

or...

                        NEWFOUNDLAND DUDE
               (thick Newfoundland accent)
       Lard tunderin jaysus by (Lord thundering Jesus boy)

The biggest factor is simply the readability and understandability of the part. Phonetically, anyone can get it, and if a language/accent barrier is essential to the plot, having it phonetically spelled out and then translated might be the better option. If everyone understands everyone regardless, it might not matter so much and you can just be proper with it nad note the accent.


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Nolan
Posted: August 4th, 2017, 8:17am Report to Moderator
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Thanks!  All very good points of view on the topic.  Much appreciated!

Nolan
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Ares
Posted: August 7th, 2017, 12:00am Report to Moderator
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Just a note from a non-native.
Writing the actual pronunciation is tiring to the reader. Writing the words that are unique to the characters region, class, background, etc, is fine. (For example "gov'na" instead of "governor").
I mean you wouldn't write normal British accent like "My Doughtah is a race cah drivah", would you?

Personally, I would state what accent the characters speak with when they are first introduced and leave it to that.

Of course, in the occasion that someone speaks with an accent and the other person cannot understand them, then by all means, write the actual accent. We do want the reader to be as confused as the character, it helps to identify with the character.
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