Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Titanic and how I found Katie O'Reilly's Irish voice in me

You know it when you hear it…that lovely Irish lilt in a girl’s voice that reminds you of warm currant buns and hot tea on a cold, rainy day.

But how do you write it?

The accent, I mean.

The answer is simple, you don’t.

Instead of trying to recreate Katie’s Irish accent with a lot o’ fancy apostrophes and local words not known to a wide audience, I decided upon another way.


Not rhyming stanzas, but the poetry of the heart that comes from Katie’s character.

Katie is nineteen, born in County Cork, her mum and da couldn’t read or write, but her upbringing is rich with their stories and sayings that intrigue the young girl’s mind and soul.

Also, Katie is Irish Catholic, so the stories of the saints and her catechism are also the roots of her way of speaking.

Writing Katie’s voice came naturally to me since I grew up as Katie did, hearing the Irish folk tales from the family and the good sisters and writing stories ever since I read my first book of fairy tales.

Here’s an example of how I give the reader the cadence of Katie’s Irish speech when she sneaks aboard the Titanic and a handsome gentleman finds her.

She was safe here. For now.

Closing her eyes she leaned against the staircase wall, wild thoughts racing through her mind. Where was she to go? Hide in a lifeboat on the Boat deck when it got dark, then she’d–

“I thought I’d find you here.”

That got her attention and sent the fear of God pulsing through like a holy sermon. She opened her eyes and let out a loud gasp. Dear sweet Jesus, it was him. The man she’d seen on deck, watching her.

She was all in a flap when she saw him, like a burst of golden sunshine he was, shining down on her after she’d been drenched by a cold, drizzling rain in her dark, grey world. Aye, he was a handsome gentleman, with black hair and black eyes that held dark secrets that could make a lass blush, though there was an aristocratic air about him that tamed his wildness just enough to keep him on balance.

And put her off balance.

When Katie boards the Titanic, she may not be a first class passenger, but her richness of speech and glorious way of looking at the world intrigue Captain Lord Jack Blackthorn. He intends to tame this wild Irish girl with red hair, but Katie has ideas of her own.

As you’ll find out in “Katie O’Reilly, a story of the Titanic.”

Next time on Titanic Wednesdays: Titanic: The “Millionaire’s Special”


Michelle Polaris said...

I heard her accent clearly. You chose right, Jina. Keep it coming. I love her.

Wynter Daniels said...

Great job. You captured the Irish perfectly!

Jina Bacarr said...

Katie thanks you and I thank you, Michelle! It's a bit of a job to find just the right adding spices to Irish stew...not too much and not too little!

Jina Bacarr said...

Thank you, Wynter--Katie has a provocative way of looking at the world formed by her Irish heritage and her faith. Believe me, it's quite a challenge to write her!

Dalton Diaz said...

Works for me, too. Better, actually, than reading it phonetically and having my tongue trip.
Speaking of tripping tongues and phonetics, I need more coffee...

Jina Bacarr said...

Thanks, Dalton! I notice when I read Katie's dialogue out loud, the accent is there in the cadence of her speech, e.g. when she meets Captain Lord Blackthorn after she sneaks aboard the Titanic and he offers her his protection:

“By the souls of the martyred saints, you waste no time, do you me lord, just like them gents in the penny dreadfuls peeking under a housemaid’s petticoats.” She hesitated and he could hear her breathing hard. “If I agree to do what you want, what happens after?”