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I have read most books on novel writing, usually titled 'how to write a best-seller' or 'ten step plan to novel success', and some of them have provided me with a few pointers, or just made me much more aware about various aspects of the craft. However, much of the 'do's' and 'don'ts' are complete tosh, the prime one, in my view being not to, or limit the use of, regional accents. One need only look at some of the best loved novels, which incidentally were also some of the most controversial, such as any of Thomas Hardy's with the fantastic West Country burr which really evokes the full feeling of the landscape, both geographically and enotionally in terms of the characters inner lives. Then there's the early novels of Pat Barker, and of course we have to ask whether Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting would have achieved the particular cult following were it not for the Glasweigan? The great thing about dialect is also that the reader, if not of the same accent, has to work harder to understand and become really engaged; just like life, if you want to get to someone and their world you have to invest a part of yourself. There is, of course, also the issue of coming away from the norm of middle-class language which has always dominated the official discourse, despite it actually being the minority spoken. So, when you ask yourself if you have found your voice, or whether you have succeeded in finding the voice of your characters, also ask whether it has a flavour other than plain.

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