Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Guest Post: W.J. May

I am pleased to welcome W.J. May, author of Rae of Hope and Dark Nebula, the first two books in The Chronicles of Kerrigan series.  She is here today to discuss how to write an accent onto a character and make it seem authentic and real.  To me, it sounds like a lot of fun to imagine how to take a Scottish Highlander and try to get his accent and his culture across on the page, but I imagine it would be rather difficult at the same time. But before we get to that, take a look at a brief synopsis of Rae of Hope and Dark Nebula.

Fifteen-year-old Rae Kerrigan has never questioned her family’s history. That is until she accepted a scholarship to Guilder Boarding School in England. Guilder is a very unique, gifted school.

Rae has no idea what she is getting herself into or that her family’s past is going to come back and taunt her. She learns she is part of an unparalleled group of individuals who become marked with a unique tattoo (tatù) on their sixteenth birthday. The tatù enables them to have supernatural powers particular to the shape of their marking.

Both her parents were marked though Rae never knew, as they passed away when she was young and never told her. Learning about her family’s past, her evil father and sacrificial mother, Rae needs to decide if there is a ray of hope for her own life.

Leery from the horrifying incident at the end of her first year at Guilder Boarding School, Rae Kerrigan is determined to learn more about her new tattoo. looks Her expectations are high, an easy senior year and a happy reunion with Devon— the boy she’s not supposed to date. All hopes of happiness fade into shattered dreams the moment she steps back on campus.

Lies and secrets are everywhere, and a betrayal cuts Rae deeply. Among her conflicts and enemies, it appears as if her father is reaching out from beyond the grave to ruin her life. With no one to trust, Rae doesn’t know where or who to turn to for help.

Has her destiny been written? Or will she becomes the one thing she hates the most-- her father’s prodigy?


                    Writing an Accent

One of the best thing when watching a movie (for me) is listening to an actor or actress pick up an accent that you know is not their native tongue. Listening to an American pick up a Scottish accent and pull it off, or an Englishman speak with a North American accent without flipping back to their normal dialect is beyond me. 

Sure, I can fake the accent for a few words but then I switch back to what is easiest, that requires no thinking.  It’s hard. I’m Canadian and in grade school (and high school) French was a requirement.  Learning to speak French was not easy for me.  My accent stank and the goal was to learn how to think in French and parlez en francais.  I sucked.

Now as a writer, not all my characters speak “Canadian” or “American”.  The Chronicles of Kerrigan series is set in England with only one American (who’s born in the UK so she’s still got a bit of Brit in her).  So how do you show the accents without taking away from the story or messing with the reader’s head?

It’s harder than it looks. The key is to make is so smooth and simple that you don’t even notice it.  You can’t start and then switch back to what’s easy. You need to be consistent. I choose to focus on British wording instead of American – instead of Soccer, I used ‘football/footie’, for garbage I used bin, etc… My focus was not so much on showing the accent s in how the words were written, but more in how the characters spoke.

In another series I am currently writing, one of the main characters is Scottish and the rest are American. Here I chose to write the accent, cutting letters or enunciating certain syllables a Scottish accent would exemplify.  My husband is from England so I bugged (or was it begged) him to “fake” a Scottish accent. I watched movies/TV and the best – a documentary on the history of Scotland. I made a list of words that were consistently spoken which my ears picked up as different. I tried to write a sentence in “American” English and then “Scottish” English and compared.  Then I took ten keys words I felt would have the biggest impact and made sure they were shown.  For example, a Scotsman would say ‘yer’ instead of ‘you’.

It seems to be working. As I edit chapters and reread sections, I pick up on my wee Scotsman and like the way his voice seems to dance while he speaks. Now I hope the reader can pick up on it as well.

I’m curious to hear what other writers and readers would suggest on picking up an accent and using it effectively in a story.   What’s your secret?

About the Author:
Wanita May grew up in the fruit belt of Ontario - St.Catharines. Crazy-happy childhood, she always has had a vivid imagination and loads of energy.

The youngest of six -- four older brothers, and a sister -- taught her at a young age to be competitive in all aspects of life.

At sixteen, she began competing in athletics (track and field) and before she turned seventeen, she was representing Canada in high jump. She continued to compete, breaking Canada's JR High Jump record (1.92m - 6' 3 1/2" for those metric-ly challenged). She attented University of Toronto, and Kansas State University - winning CIAU's and becoming All-American 6x - NCAA Indoors Runner Up + more.

But you're not interested in her athletic career - unless of course you're curious to know she stands 1.70m (5'7") and has jumped 20cm over her head on more than one occasion. She's represented Canada at the World Championships, World Jrs., won Francophone Games, and loved every minute of every competition. From the grueling workouts, the crazy weights she lifted on her back, the days she thought her lungs were going to spit out of her mouth for lack of oxygen, the travelling around the world and the opportunity to read - her favourite past time.

Wanita and her husband now run an online business, dealing in antiques and collectables - particularly jewelry and porcelain.

After her father passed away in 2009, from a six-year battle with cancer (which she still believes he won the fight against), she began to write again. A passion she'd loved for years, but realized life was too short to keep putting it off.

She is currently represented by Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Wanita is a writer of Young Adult, Fantasy Fiction and where ever else her little muses take her.

Twitter: @wanitajump


  1. Thanks for letting me stop by and for sharing The Chronicles of Kerrigan!
    WJ May

  2. Here's an idea I heard from a Scottish crime writer: listen via the internet to radio phone-in shows for the country/region your character is from. Haven't tried it myself yet, but it does seem like a really god idea.

    I've recently published a novel set in New York, with just two English characters in it - all the rest are New Yorkers. It's too early to tell how many things I got right and how many I got wrong!

    (I'm English, btw)

    Eva Hudson

  3. Eva! Great suggestion! I was watching the history channel and pbs to get some clues - but radio would be so much better - more natural (lol and up to date!)

  4. A fellow Canuck! Hello, WJ!

    I've written for a multi-national set of characters; my main characters are an American and a Brit, but also characters from Ireland, Greece, Israel, and throughout the Middle East. I think part of capturing their voice with authenticity is exposing oneself to the sound of those nationalities through television, radio, and going for the linguistic nuances.