SPEAKING OF DIALOGUE…
I have a friend who speaks easily and with lots of expression. It’s as if the thoughts swirling in her head are pushing the words out of her mouth. She can do this for a long time! Her husband however, doesn’t say much. When he does, I lean in to listen. He speaks so quietly and so carefully that sometimes I want to finish his sentences.
When writing fiction, it’s important to make your characters sound different from each other. But how?
One way I do this is to give characters certain expressions that they repeat fairly often. In my novel, BLUE, Bessie Bledsoe responds to bad things by saying, “Have mercy.” That suits her personality because she’s the sort of neighbor who comes in with hugs and an apple pie to cheer up my other characters when they need it.
In THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary Schmidt, 7th grader, Holling Hoodhood often starts his sentences with, “Let me tell you”. This opening phrase is perfect for Holling because his life is full of drama and he is going to tell about it. (My advice? Get The Wednesday Wars and read it!)
Humor, sarcasm, and moodiness are also tools for creating unique speech. And of course, some characters will be educated while others might use lots of poor grammar or maybe just one incorrect speech pattern that sets them apart. Making use of speech that reflects a region or ethnic group, is also highly effective! (But it’s tricky – proceed carefully.)
If you need help making characters sound individual, try listening to your family or a group of friends while eating pizza or watching TV. You might even want to take a few notes. Just don’t tell your brother he’s about to show up in your first novel.
Joyce Moyer Hostetter
Author, Historical Fiction
COMFORT (Blue sequel)
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