Sometimes I’m not a good reader, and I’m not a good reader quite often when I’m reading conversation between characters who are speaking in dialect or have an accent… I’m blaming me here, not the writer.
It is such a tricky thing to do successfully, and the writer has to be really familiar with what they are trying to convey. “What are ye for?”he shouted. “T’ maister’s down i’ t’ fowld. Go round by th’ end o’ t’ laith, if ye went to spake to him.” This is Old Joseph in Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. As a reader, I find it enough to be told that a character has a certain accent, and for dialect and local words to be included in speech but cleverly done so their meaning is clear. It’s a subtle technique.
The only time I have done it at all is in Flipside which is set in Oldham; I worked and then lived in Oldham for twenty-five years. The story is told through the first person by someone who has just arrived and speaks with a southern accent and when it came to writing direct speech I felt that it was enough to say that characters had an Oldham accent, and to use words such as ‘ginnel’ meaning alley, and let the reader do the rest. The reader will have the characters’ voices in their head so the reader can give them accents.
Now in Magick, my sequel to Radwinter, some of the characters come from Tobago; I have taught people from Tobago and I’ve researched the accent, but I wouldn’t attempt to transcribe it so I have merely said that the characters come from there and leave it to my readers to imagine how they speak. An English character is telling the story so at times he struggles to understand when others are speaking quickly and with dialect words and constructions… I’m sure readers will grasp that.
Oh and by the way, the title comes from the hymn ‘O Jesus I have promised’ by John E. Bode.