I’ve been drowning in work recently, both at my day job and in writing. My lack of published books this year is in no way an admission of defeat. Consider it the calm before the storm. Yes, my schedule has been thrown completely out of whack. Once it’s all done, however, a heap of goodness should be coming your way.
Anyway, in the rare moments I came up for air, I turned on the TV. Trailers for the series “Genius” blasted across the screen, all perfectly dark and moody, in sync with the tumultuous life of Albert Einstein.
Now, Einstein’s mind has always been of interest to me, his experiences less so. Richard Feynman, well, here was a guy with an eventful life, and I’d love to watch that. Einstein’s just didn’t have the same pull for me. Still, I owed it to my physics roots to tune in.
What can I say? The names behind the faces and behind the camera promised a great adventure, and it was indeed beautifully choreographed. Sadly, I didn’t last longer than ten minutes.
Einstein and the Germans surrounding him spoke English with an accent. ‘Of course they did,’ I hear you cry, but I meant they spoke English with a German accent. What’s the point? Fake German accents, too. We know they are German. It would be easy to assume they speak German even without the accents.
Ironically, the German characters’ German is spoken with a genuine English accent. Go figure. You might even wonder why they’d use any German words in the first place.
Either way, it’s a mess.
When we write, we spend a good deal of time thinking about our characters. What do they want? How do they get there? What accents they have gets maybe five seconds of our time. If English isn’t their native language, we give them an accent, but without making their sentences too broken. If they’re British, they speak British English, and Americans speak American. Simple rules.
In one of my books, my main character is German, but you wouldn’t know it from the way she speaks. Her nationality is a minor detail indicating what she is, rather than who she is. I shouldn’t distract the reader by unnecessarily complicating my characters’ backgrounds.
“Genius” would be so much more palatable if they dropped the accents. The Nazis and Nazi paraphernalia on the streets are all I need to place Einstein in Germany, assuming I didn’t already know his origins.
Focus on the story and on the characters. Give the readers and the audience what they’re after: a genuine story, and leave the gimmicks to lesser writers/film makers.
Of course, I might be blowing this out of proportions. Do these details matter to you?