Defining Your Local Accent

One of the key factors in my writing process is the definition of accents.

Having grown up reading books by Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Judy Blume and L.J. Smith, I have been largely exposed to characters that speak in old fashioned Queen’s English accents, or a sort of generalised white America accent that I can’t quite define because I don’t know enough about the country and its various regions.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

Now, I am very definitely not from a Queen’s English background, so I didn’t really connect with the characters in the books I read. They were distant, posh people who I could never emulate. I did feel a connection with Roald Dahl’s Matilda, but I am still not sure what kind of regional accent she might have spoken. I get the feeling it was somewhere in the South of England, but I can’t be sure.

My characters are mostly Northern, like me. I grew up in the Staffordshire Moorlands, close to Stoke-on-Trent, and so I have a sort of hybrid “Stokie” accent when I speak. It grows broader when I return home to visit, which I find quite amusing. My husband grew up in both Wigan (Northern England) and Staffordshire because his family moved to my hometown when he was ten. His accent grew into a hybrid Lancashire-Stoke, but then returned to its Northern roots when he went to university in Manchester and took up full time work in the region.

I want my characters to have accents. I don’t want them to be traditionally English, or cockney or anything that to my mind is all too common and far removed from my experiences. My heroine in the Redcliffe novels series, Jessica Stone, is from Manchester, but she now lives in Cornwall where the adventures take place. Her best friend, Liz, is also Mancunian, living in Cornwall, and she marries a local university lecturer who has a Cornish accent. Jessica’s love interests, the identical twins Jack and Danny Mason, have their roots in Dublin, but since they are over one hundred years old and have lived in many places, their accents seem to come and go, largely depending upon their emotional state.

How important is it for you to read stories where the characters have a definitive accent? Does it help you to relate more to the characters and the story, or do you prefer to learn about other cultures and other lives? I find the whole subject fascinating!

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1 Response to Defining Your Local Accent

  1. Totally agree that characters in novels shouldn’t all be middle class RP speakers — but how do you convey accents without it reading like a parody? Some writers could do it (I’m thinking of the characters of Martha and Dickon Sowerby in “The Secret Garden”) but it works best if the author is themselves a speaker of that particular vernacular (I’m thinking of “Swing, Hammer, Swing” by Jeff Torrington). Whereas Kipling’s efforts to write accents always read like a parody to me.

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