A Sucker for an Accent

I’ll confess. I love listening to others speak with an accent. I like them all. Since I was very young I’ve had friends from other countries—Norway, Germany, Australia. My mom’s family had roots in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of my best friends in high school was a foreign exchange student from Germany. I even attended a seminar about foam wall insulation because the
presenter was Scottish. Really.

I know. Everyone has an accent, no matter from whence they come. I’m from Texas, and I can tell you that the Panhandle accent is different from the drawls you hear from East or West Texas, the coast, or the Hill Country.

I adore stories—movies, television, and books—with characters from other countries. Their voices develop their characters, making them more real and more interesting. Their voices charm and attract. They endear us, even when they repel us.

Why? I think it reaches back into our own lives and memories. Someone with a Creole or French accent reminds me of my Grandpa and his family. A brisk Cockney accent reminds me of my first trips to the movie theatre to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, and later My Fair Lady.

A rich Russian bite reminds me of hours of watching James Bond marathons. To me it is the sound of villains, but not the typical bad guys. It is the sharp clip of friends from my childhood. Mad geniuses? Yes, but their villainy is iconic and delicious. As far a Bond goes each Bond actor’s voice cuts and melts at the same time. Who wouldn’t listen to whatever Sean Connery has to say?

I like to incorporate accents into my own writing, too. All of my stories include types from various ethnicities. It helps to connect the readers to the individual characters. It offers insight into their past, their education or their heritage without a specific paragraph of exposition.

The same rule applies to film. An accent gives the audience inside information without requiring the characters to stop and explain. It keeps the story moving. The action doesn’t lose momentum. That’s good for the audience and good for the movie. And
good for me… did I mention I love an accent?

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!

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