I'm willing to introduce a new character who speaks a different English - he uses all the words with -ed in the past and past perfect tenses and he doesn't use the continuous tenses:

"Eh, they fighted for long yesterday, see'ed it with me own eyes," said the man. "I ordered me a beer, sitted, and drinked it while they did."

Is it okay if I just show his way of speaking without explaining where that came from?

Are there any better solutions to not make the reader feel awkward and make it flow in smoothly?

The plot speaks about a small village far from big cities. The year is somewhere around 3046. Life has changed quite a lot outside big cities.

4 Answers 4


When you introduce something like this, it's good to ask yourself if it would be normal within the context of the world that your story is set in.

In this case, would the other characters in your story think of it as weird, or would they think of it as a normal trait for (in this case) people, say, from a particular area or with a particular background which happen to match this character?

It doesn't seem to me like you are introducing something that would make the text particularly difficult to read for the reader, and you are giving this character a very distinctive voice. The former makes it less of a problem, and the latter is often desirable to help the reader tell the different characters in a story apart.

There might be a slightly jarring sensation to the reader early on, but I'd suspect most people will get over it quickly, as long as you're consistent about the voice of this character.

  • He's a minor character but I just wanted to add something unusual to the way the people who are out of the big cities speak. There'll be more of such characters and all have the same way of speaking. It's a regional dialect. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 3:42

There's certainly nothing wrong with this. Lots of books have characters who speak in a dialect.

That said, what is your goal in doing this? If this is important to the plot -- either something about this particular style of speech or just the idea that he speaks an unusual dialect -- then go ahead.

If you're doing it to add "color", I'd be more cautious. Your dialect probably isn't too hard for readers of regular English to understand, but it will slow down comprehension, maybe occasionally cause confusion. Is it worth it? I'm not saying it isn't, just that it's something to consider. If this is a major character and a lot of dialog will be in this dialect, that would be more troublesome than if he's a minor character who just pops up now and then.

On the flip side, of course, having characters from far away places all speak exactly the same can also come across as unrealistic to the reader. I recall once seeing a British movie that had a character who was supposed to be an American, and at one point he mentions "making a trunk call to my solicitor". As an American I found this very jarring: An American would say "long distance call to my lawyer". As it turned out that was deliberate, the brilliant detective notices this and realizes the man is lying when he says he's American. (Though it had the catch that as a viewer, I wasn't sure if it was a slip-up on the part of the CHARACTER or of the WRITER.)

The novel "1984" had important plot points about the dialect spoken by the characters. The odd dialect was an important part of the story and not just a side point. Not quite the same, but the sci fi novel "Babel 17" and the recent movie "Arrival" are all about how learning the alien language forces people to think differently, because the language just naturally leads you to view reality in a different way. Those two stories are all about the language people speak.

  • Good pros and cons here; I liked the movie references, even if probably OP didn't intend to build the plot around language. Still, they are great examples of your point about language and plot.
    – Liquid
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 23:52
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    On the other hand, a strong dialect can still be an engaging part of a story even if it isn't relevant to the plot if it sheds light on the background to the story: A Clockwork Orange is a good example of this kind: the main character (and his droogs) speak a dialect that is meant to emphasize their disconnection from mainstream society, and highlight the fact that they have been influenced by Russian propaganda (and hence have many bastardized Russian words in their dialect). But as to the actual plot, it has very little actual relevance.
    – Jules
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 0:55
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    "Though it had the catch that as a viewer, I wasn't sure if it was a slip-up on the part of the CHARACTER or of the WRITER." -- it works better from the perspective of a British viewer actually: watching that scene it would immediately stand out to me as an overly exaggerated use of British English. "Trunk call" is such a British term that we've basically stopped using it out of embarrassment, and "solicitor" is a word that is so stereotypically not-American that it would be difficult to imagine a writer not realizing exactly what they were doing - like suggesting walking on the pavement.
    – Jules
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 1:03
  • Wouldn't it make difficulty reading his dialogues? In Harry Potter I love the way Hagrid speaks and this is what was behind my idea. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 3:45
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    @jules Quite true. I should have said "relevant to the plot OR to character development". Or other aspects of the story. The key point is "this is important to the story" versus "I put in this dialect I invented because I thought it would be fun to invent a dialect". Or, "it was important in my first draft but I've made changes so it no longer matters, but it's too much work to take it out".
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 16:19

That's normal and perfectly fine

You might want to make other characters or the narrator remark about his accent if it's well-known. For example by adding a line like Ah, I take it you're from Tarehy? Say, you wouldn't happen to know anything about [important plot device]?

If it's not a well-known accent in your world you might want to let the character remark about his weird way of speaking or allude to this being similar to, but distinct from, a certain accent.

That way it feel normal for the reader. They will understand how to judge this character and his way of talking, just like your existing characters will know what to make of this weird speaking new character.

The reader might feel awkward once or twice, but then they will get used to it. It's an important characteristic of this... character and it's not like this is so different from normal English that your readers would need any explanation as to what the new character is saying.

If you were introducing something that was so difficult to read that your readers will be annoyed you might want to think it over again. Or use it very sparsely. Maybe let one of the characters translate or your narrator skipping to the confused faces of all that are currently present while the new character is talking near-gibberish.

As a little annecdote to help you judge how others may perceive this character: to me it reads like a dwarf from a fantasy setting (I am a huge fantasy fan). Or maybe a farmer in some remote area in the middle ages (think The Witcher).


It seems like a lot of people are asking if something is 'okay' to do in writing, and there isn't an objective answer. In Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton formats his book in an odd way that breaks convention. Yet, he still got published and Cry, the Beloved Country is still a great book. You're the author, you can do what you want.

That being said, you might want to make sure that what you are doing makes sense in your world. You said it was in the future and that there has been a significant amount of change in dialect. So, that makes sense.

One problem I can see is that it might distract the reader. You want to be clear while still maintaining the dialect. If you want to avoid discussing the dialect in narrative, you could have dialogue where people without the accent discuss the dialect and its origins. You may not have to do that. You dialect might not be major enough of a point that it would distract the reader. If you plan on having any beta readers, that is something I would ask them to look out for. Because if the dialect doesn't need a background (or if the background isn't relevant to the story), you don't want to bore the reader with details from a time long ago. An exception from this would be if you are a writing a technical book in which you spend lots of time discussing history. In that case, it would probably enhance your book to discuss the dialect.

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