Listening to the rhythm

Rather than try to reproduce an accent phonetically by spelling the words differently or dropping the odd letter here and there and replacing it with an apostrophe, listen to the rhythm of speech.

You can achieve far more realism by turning the order of words around in a sentence and sparingly throwing in the odd colloquialism.

In contrast to her Scottish namesake, contemporary novelist Patricia Burns effectively conveys Scott Warrender's American accent through the subtle use of phraseology and in Poppy's reaction to the things he says, as shown in the following extract:

Poppy tucked her hand inside his elbow. 'You'll have to tell me which way to go. Is it far? I hope so.'

'I usually get the first workmen's tram,' Poppy told him, before she could stop herself.

'To hell with that - begging your pardon - we'll find a cab. Are you tired?'

Generally she was worn out at the end of a night spent on her feet, wanting only to crawl into bed and sleep the sleep of the dead. But tonight she could have run all the way to Scotland and back.

'You're tougher than me, then. When I was waiting tables I was washed out by the time I finished.' 'You? A waiter? But you're an officer.' 'Don't mean a thing, honey. My folks keep a hardware store in upstate Pennsylvania. I worked my way through college.'

' Oh' - It was like a foreign language, but she did get the gist of it.

(Cinnamon Alley, Patricia Burns, Arrow Books)

Not only does the author clearly convey the American lilt in Scott Warrender's speech, she also effectively conjures up the period wartime feel in Poppy's responses and reactions.

There is a sense, too, of the characters circling round one another in a way that is typical when there is mutual attraction. Keen to get to know each other better, each one is anxious to sustain the moment and worried that they might say the wrong thing and miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

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