Creative Writing Tips - Personal Dialogue Style

September 25, 2017 Rebekah E. Goodall 2 Comments

One important feature of a well written novel its ease to understand the story while reading only the dialogue. Reading only the text within quotation marks is a great way to read books faster and a good writer won't be offended by readers skipping bits. A good writer will instead set each characters' voices differently. Along with physical traits, back story and emotional stability you'll cater their dialogue style with a phycological magnifying-glass. Here are my creative writing tips to help both writers and readers identify a character's personal dialogue style.

There are many bad habits humans use when they speak and write. If you're a good writer or editor you know what conventions to look out for and avoid in your text, but I believe your dialogue is where you can be a bit naughty for the sack of differentiating your characters. Rather than edit out bad grammar add it to your characters to make them more realistic.

Consider The Character's Age
If they are a child they will not use big words. But adults and particularly educated professors or senior citizens will have more words in their vocabulary. Note in your character biographies what are their reading/speaking levels.

Newspapers cater towards a twelve-year-old reading level. The New York Times counted their entire vocabulary to 200 indervidual words.

What are the character's favourite words and phrases?

Is Your Character Annoying?
If you want the character to annoy your readers, spell the way they say 'everythink'. This is something my Dad says and it hits a nerve every time. 'Everythink' not a real word but many people still say it consistently when they mean to say 'everything'.

There are several words out people say wrong that can be used to set your characters apart from each other. eg. Proformance meaning performance. And 'Litraly', with 3 sylaballs is how many people in the UK pronounce 'literally'.

Is Your Character Over-Compensating For Something?
You might have a character who is insecure go for using tautology. tautology in writing is when unnecessary words are present saying same meaning an the meaning is repeated.

This character will talk about free gifts at 3.15pm in the afternoon and they'll totally and completely let you know what they're saying is the absolute truth because they heard it with their own ears.

This is how a character might sound shallow, or a waste of space. Because their words are a waste of ink.

Is Your Character Uneducated?
They might be likely to split the infinitive. The 'to' before a verb must not be separated by an adjective because it is actually part of the verb.

60% of English comes from French. English is a mixed language made up from French and Anglo-Saxon. And in French today, all verbs have an implied 'to' before them.

Compandre: to understand
Faire: to make
Cuisiner: to cook
Danser: to dance
That is why you cannot split the infinitive- you'll be breaking up the original word.

However, the uneducated character wouldn't know to boldly go, or to fiercely fight, or to actively move are poor grammar arrangements.

Consider Your Character's Profession
Characters working in any industry will use jargon from the work place. This is especially important if a character's career choice is a reflection of their personality or stereotype.

Retailers know the difference between the retail price and the wholesale price. Engineers know things about design and mechanical function, chemists know what will blow things up and what is poisonous.

Doctors speak to a child in pain differently to how the average mother would. They know the common causes for stinging compared with aching compared with throbbing pain. A person's education and occupation will change them and how they interact with the world.

Is Your Character Confident and/or Autistic?
Both people who can command the room and who hate to be wrong will speak with clarity and calculated grammar.

Hitler was known for being a great speaker and even Donald Trump knows how to get a message across. 

Of course these examples are politicians but confidence is a result of being prepared and quick thinking.

These characters won't will not use contractions. And they ain't gonna will not use slang.

American and British Character Distinction
Wherever a character is from they will speak a particular dialect. In the case between Mrrica and Bri'in there are many examples you should be aware of.

To name a few; Yards vs meters, soda vs fizz, rubber vs condom, sweater vs jumper.

Yes, different editions of books exist for the sake of the reader but when a character is talking and you wish for them to be a foreign addition to the mix of characters you need to consider their dialect.

There are more than seven ways to alter a character's personal dialogue style but I think these are enough to be getting on with. You've got some research to do regarding national slang and every mechanical, medical and mathematical profession.

Happy writing. Let me know what else you can think of to refine a character's speaking style.


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  1. These are some excellent tips to help so many aspiring writers like me to write better and more engaging creative content. Thank you for sharing.

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