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Americanization

Hello Townhouse. I'd like to pick your brains.

I've recently written a short story that is set in Kentucky, using first person narrative. I deliberately used English spellings, because I wanted to focus more on the geographic and the terminolgy of my character, rather than wanting myself as the writer to appear American. However, I gave the story to someone near Kentucky to check for authenticity, and because of their very useful comments, I need to do a rewrite. But, they did say I should change to American spellings. I think they could have a point, only because it is first person, but I'm not convinced. Novels with American and English characters wouldn't have their dialogue's adjusted to suit. I know this is different because it's a short story, but I'm an Englishman.

Do you think it is important? Do you think the spellings need to change, or would third person work better for me?

Thank you. 

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Replies (14)
  • Hmmm, interesting question: is the SPELLING (not the dialect, not the lexis, not the syntax, not the anything else) a fundamental part of an authentically-American narrative voice?

    I think I'm going to say yes. Why? because if I'm reading the story, being asked by you the writer to believe I am reading the inner monologues of a 'real' American character who suddenly mentions the "colour of the sky" instead of the "color of the sky", I think I'm likely to register the British English spelling. And then I could be pulled out of the story momentarily, thinking ,"Why's this narrator spelling 'colour' with a 'u'? I though s/he was American."

    True, many of your readers may not be as tragically pedantic as me, but then again some might. So,  reckon you'll have to bite the bullet, start using far more 'z's than you're comfortable with, and sacrifice an entire syllable from the word 'aluminium'. 

    You got this, Jimmy. You got this.

    😄

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    • Haha, you're right, I have got this. The problem was, I'm writing five stories at the moment so became a bit frazzled. But after taking a step back, I've had a good chat with my American MC about it, and he said it's his story, so he wants it spelled his way. Cheers, Emmaloo.

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    • I have to agree, I think, Jimmy. Because of the first person narrative, especially. That's your characters voice, were seeing their thoughts and an American would think with their own spelling. I find this kind of thing hard - I wrote a short story set in an unnamed American city and had to think dumpster, not bin, sidewalk, not pavement. Though I ran it past two American bloggers and they thought it was okay. (One told me re dialogue, 'we just sound a lot lazier than Brits'. Not sure all Americans would agree, but that was his view!) You did the absolute right thing getting a an American to read it - could they help with some spelling, too?

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      • It certainly is tricky, Lynn. I slipped up using 'Uni' instead of 'College.' A simple mistake but an obvious one, as was stated to me.

        I'm not sure about Amerian laziness, but I like the way they removed unnecessary letters.

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      • I certainly think if you want Americans to read it you need USA spelling. We produced some technical books years ago and they had to be totally rewritten for the US market in American English. Without it, we were told, it would be impossible to sell in the USA. However, that was in the noughties so it maybe different now.

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        • I'm aiming to submit in England, so not necessarily for an American audience, but it's the first time I've done it so making it authentic is prooving difficult. Thanks for your thoughts.

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        • I live in Kentucky if that helps. Silas House, who grew up here, is an excellent author. He captures the vernacular especially well without cliches.


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          • Brilliant, thanks. I'll look him up. There's no rush for this story, so maybe reading one of his books will help.

            While you're hear, at one stage, I will have my character lying down in 'soft blue grass.' Would you say that's too stereotypical of the blue grass state, or even accurate? Would emerald be a more suited colour?

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            • It's bluegrass, not blue grass. It's not blue.

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              • That's phones for you. I thought that, but the advise given was, because it's what the state is famous for, to make the grass blue instead of auburn as I originally had it. Google says that the flower is blue which gives it that look 

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              • I don't know the answer, Jimmy, but I think I've heard that if you're submitting in the UK, then use UK spellings. 

                It sounds like a question for the Jericho team. I'm sure they'll know the answer.

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                • Funnily enough Libby, I've contacted a UK based flash fiction mag.
                  It's only a 420 word story, so I wasn't expecting it needing so much groundwork. But, they have to be right don't they?
                  Cheers.

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                  • I can totally relate. I'm American but living in the UK. I have written 2 first drafts of MS and they both take place in America. I keep flipping between the US & UK spelling for things as the UK spellings have become habit in my brain. My latest MS has 2 main characters that are American but they live in the UK... I probably should have that entirely with UK spelling... Food for thought. Thanks!


                    My opinion: yes write with american spellings if you're writing a first person story of someone living in Kentucky. You could use their dialect in the writing but definitely not British English. That would totally turn off the reader. Even the first book of HP had the spellings of words changed for Americans. (jumper here & there are two totally different types of clothing)

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                    • Talk about confusing. It really depends on where you'd like to market it. The UK press I asked responded today saying that, typically, the spelling conventions reflect the location of publication, which confirms what Libby said. So a story set in the US but published in the UK would have UK spelling, obviously using US terminology. Sounds like a bit of a cross breed.

                      But they also said that they personally wouldn't worry about it at all, and it wouldn't affect chances of publication. (So I know where I'll be sending it). 😉

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