A Soul Crystals: ARC of the Amuli audiobook is in production! I just wanted to give a quick overview about some of the quirks of my character’s voices and narration.
For the most part, I put what my main characters sound like directly in the writing. For example, Paul has a nervous stammer. Alice sounds pretty robotic. Jason is pretty gruff which is pretty emblematic how he grew up as a street kid. What I do want to go over is some of the things that aren’t quite written down or may need some explanation if you are unfamiliar about the areas the characters come from.
In the Soul Crystals series, Amuli are a global phenomena. That means they characters from every part of the world. Over the course of just the first book, we see characters from Russia, England, Jordan, New Zealand, and Ghana to just name a few. In cases like those, I did my best to research pronunciation guides for those countries. In cases like Gareth Jackson, he had a lot more chapters in the story, so it was much more of an effort to figure out how an English person would say things and what vocabulary they would use. My obsession with watching soccer games on TV helped with that, too.
What some people may not realize is that countries like England and even the United States have a multitude of accents, even in the same region. Cam is one example in that she has a bit of a Queens accent due to her background and Italian-American heritage. There are also examples that are a little more nuanced. Most of what people think of as an American accent is actually Midwestern, usually Northern Ohio and Southern Michigan. During the middle of the 20th century, news anchors and movie stars were taught to talk that way since it was seen as the most “American.” With Hollywood being in California, a lot of West Coast slang has ended up in pop culture. The other chief source of influence over American language has been the African American community which has come through music. African Americans are the inventors of basically every American music genre: blues, jazz, rock, and hip hop.
Not all states talk uniformly, however. Sure, the Midwestern accent has permeated most of the country, especially in the North, but some places retain some uniqueness. The younger generations who have been exposed to a more gentrified American culture may not express it as much, but the older generation often does.
Getting back to the story, that leads me to the bizarre state of Pennsylvania which is where most of the series takes place. Most people, even PA residents, don’t realize it, but Pennsylvania is one of the most accent-rich states in the US. Here’s a list of PA accents that is not really exhaustive: Amish (actual Pennsylvania Dutch), Amish Country (Harrisburg, Hersey, York, Lancaster), Pittsburgh Yinzer, Pittsburgh non-Yinzer, Pennsylvania Appalachian, Pocono, Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Philadelphia, Erie, and African American Vernacular. That’s just to name a few.
As far as how Pennsylvania accents affect the characters, Robby, for instance, has family from Pittsburgh. He’s moved around from Pittsburgh to the Appalachian part of Pennsylvania, so he’s more of a mix. With all the TV he watches, he doesn’t have much of an accent. Paul grew up in the Appalachian part of Pennsylvania, but his family is not from there originally. I could hear him tossing in a few weird, Western Pennsylvania pronunciations here and there.
The Appalachian accent is heard more in some of the side characters. I tried to recreate it in Jack’s voice as well as the two attendants in the store Paul has to “rob.” If you’re wondering how it sounds like off the page, it’s a little bit like what you would expect someone from West Virginia would talk like.
That brings me to my narration. I’m a Pennsylvanian and that probably affects a little bit of how I write. I was born in Lancaster, home of the Amish Country accent, and my entire family still lives there. But, I was raised and currently reside in Western Pennsylvania in the region of the Appalachian accent. You can probably find instances of both ways of speaking in my writing, but I am personally someone who tries to go for the traditional Midwestern accent with a bit of Amish Country mixed in. That is basically how my speaking voice works as well.
If you want a tally of how words are pronounced strangely in Appalachian and Amish Country accents here are some examples.
Days of the week sound more like Mondee, Tuesdee rather than Monday, Tuesday.
Creek sounds like crick.
Radiator sounds like ratty-ator.
Wash sounds like warsh.
Water sounds like woodor (yeah, more extreme than Philadelphia’s wudder)
Roof sounds like ruff.
It’s soda, not pop.
Go to the “shore,” instead of go to the beach.
Root’s Amish Market is pronounced like Rutt’s.
Lebanon, Pennsylvania is pronounced Leb-nin.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania is pronounced “Lank-ister”
There is Lancaster County and the city of Lancaster. Lancaster County is usually just called Lancaster. The other is usually referred to as Lancaster City.
Whoopie pies, not gobs.
No one calls it Amish Country.
New Bethlehem, PA is pronounced New Bethlem or even New Befflum.
Oil City, PA is sometimes shortened to Ole City.
It’s pop, not soda.
Creek also sounds like crick.
Reesies Peanut Buttercups instead of Reese’s Peanut Buttercups.
Gobs, not whoopie pies.
Overall, Western Pennsylvania has a much twangier accent which is almost stereotypically Southern. I’ve heard it called West Pentuckyginia before (Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky). This is a little ironic since Lancaster is further south than where I grew up in Oil City.
The first comment I can foresee on this explanation is someone saying: “Hold on. I live in (blank) and I don’t talk like that.” What I am saying is that this is more of a generalization and the accents are usually found more in older people from these places. With the amount of people moving into Amish Country, that particular accent is fading fast. The city of Lancaster itself has seen its population rise to almost 60,000 in only few decades.
If all this sounds confusing, it is. Growing up in Western PA with a family from South Central PA let to me being pretty confused with word usage at times. When I started school at four years old, I was very confused by what “pop” meant or why everyone had a brown dog or cat named “Reesie.” Funny enough, the whoopie pie vs gob debate didn’t come up until I was in college in an episode that really confused one of my friends.