I first want to start this out with a disclaimer.
I am not British. I have no British relatives. I have never even stepped foot in the UK, so I am by NO MEANS an expert on this. This is not a how-two packed with advice. I’m merely an American indie author documenting my experience (and pitfalls) of attempting to write British characters.
So why the fuck would I even attempt this? Not just once, but TWICE.
That’s a good question that I ask myself almost daily. But it really boils down to one thing.
British accents are sexy.
Making Kennedy British was very deliberate. Silas was losing is vision, and he’s a voice actor. So, for him, the attraction had to be more than just the physical. It started with her scent, then came the voice.
I couldn’t tell if she was mildly irritated and teasing, or downright pissed. Had to be the accent. Brits always threw me off. They had this way of packaging snarky comments in pretty paper with an enormous bow on top. “I left a note above your box,” she added.
“I didn’t see it.”
“You should check your post more often.”
“Noted.” I offered a salute, flashed her a grin, and winked. “I’ll try to mind my volume.”
“That’d be fab.” So frosty. So cold, and yet still sexy as hell because of her damn fucking dialect.
I’ve always found British slang absolutely fascinating. Maybe because it’s different than American slang, maybe it’s because I love British shows like Peaky Blinders, Dr. Who, The IT Crowd, Sherlock, Ted Lasso (yes, this is technically an American show, but you get my gist), The Great British Baking Show, (and the list goes on) but GOD it just feels so much more colorful.
Like, come on, isn’t knickers just a fun word to say?
So, Avery, how did you learn all this British slang?
Well, like I said I watch a LOT of British television. I’ve read British books. I researched blogs that had lists of British slang words. I learned a lot. That pissed isn’t mad, but means drunk. Knackered is tired. Post is mail…(etc…) I’d say things like “off you go…” or “Off we popped…” those tiny details make all the difference. I tried not to go overboard on it, because my audience is still widely American. I think the trick was to put just enough in there that the reader can get a feel for their voice without beating them over the head with it.
But I didn’t always get it right. For example, I put “chuffed” as mad (when it actually means excited). I one point Kennedy said, “He slapped my fanny…” I obviously thought fanny sounded like a VERY British word, and it is, but it does NOT mean ass. Come to find out “fanny” is actually vagina. (OMG the visual image of Silas slapping Kennedy in the lady bits made me laugh so hard I was crying). Thankfully my editor and betas corrected me on this before I was completely humiliated.
The one problem that writing a British character posed, was how do I handle this grammatically in the scenes where we are in Kennedy’s POV. Do I write in American English, or British English? (Ex: color vs. colour, flavor vs. flavour…and so on). Ultimately my editor and I decided that all spelling would be American English, unless it was a dialogue. Ultimately my reader base is primarily American, and that is also where the book market is. Most non-US readers are used to the spelling differences.
The ONLY word that I absolutely refused to change was “ass”. I kept all those as “arse” when we were in Kennedy’s POV of thoughts, because otherwise it would throw the reader out of her head.
Was this the right way to handle it? I have no fucking clue, but it’s how I decided to tackle my novel.
Of course I sat on pins and needles waiting for those first reviews from the UK to come in. I was certain I’d get skewered by my British readers.
I literally cried happy tears when I saw this review from a British reader!
All in all, writing Take Me Down wasn’t easy (for more reasons than just the British accent), but it wasn’t as difficult as I’d thought. After all, I only had Kennedy to contend with since the book was based in Manhattan.
Then my stupid ass brain decided to write Theo’s book. Because PLOT TWIST! (And I love building a universe). This one is not based in NYC. This one is primarily in the UK, which means a FULL CAST of British characters.
And here comes the what the fuck was I thinking?
Well…apparently with a FULL CAST of British characters, this has become problematic because Google is wicked smart. You see, I send chapters at a time to my Beta’s through Google docs for them to review and comment on. Well, Google quickly figured out that I was writing in British English, and not American English, and is now trying to correct everything to that grammar style.
Honestly, my head has been in the UK so LONG at this point, I think in British accents and phrases. Case in point: The husband and I are currently turning our formal dining room into a library (that is a post for another time). He purchased some biscuit joiners to make the countertops and he came in one day exclaiming, “We got biscuits!” And of course my brain was like, “Those are some nasty looking cookies.” (You can see my TikTok here)
Also, just like in America where we have different geographical and social regions that say things differently, we also have this in the UK. Theo, being a blue-blood raised in the English countryside will not speak the same as Grant, who grew up in East London.
I’ve added some new phrases to my repertoire like “innit” or “meself” and “oi!” and all kinds of fun words…I’m hoping that this really gives my readers a feel for the characters, and who they are as a person, the background that they’ve come from.
So that has posed the same question again to me, since this entire cast is British, should I attempt to go all British grammar/spelling? What words am I getting wrong? What am I fucking up? I think I’m gonna stick with my gut…(American spelling for almost everything except where it really throws off the voice) and pray that my British readers forgive me for any of my errors.
Am I getting all of the prepositions, nouns and verbs correct in my dialogue? Probably not. I’m currently referencing this blog in an attempt to get some of them right, but as any flawed human, I’m bound to get some incorrect. But I do try to be respectful. Basically it’s the same angle I take when writing disability. I research the hell out of it, get beta/sensitivity readers and try my very best.
Diverse characters are my jam. It’s why I write wounded heroes. It’s why I include people of all sexual orientations and different cultural backgrounds. We have such a beautiful, colorful world and I would be so bored writing characters that were all able-bodied, straight, white Americans.
That said, if any of you British readers want to beta read Break Me Out, I’d be absolutely chuffed!