Using Dialect In Writing (Revised)

One of the comments I received recently, suggested that all of my characters talked and acted the same. They were generics of a sort. Well if you’ve been writing for any length of time, you know that’s not good. So how can you differentiate between characters without  giving their name and a complete description every time they speak?

Use slang, nonstandard syntax, or grammar to suggest race, social class, education i.e. gonna vs. going to,  kinda vs kind of,  holler vs hollow, don’t matta vs It doesn’t matter. If you have a character from abroad throw in some regional slang ( Scottish say-aye for yes and bairns for children).

The next time you read a book take a close look at your characters and their dialect. You will learn a lot and the fact that you didn’t even think about it while reading the novel is a plus for the author. It was seamlessly woven into the story.

Creating a characters speech pattern is less about reproducing dialect and more about knowing your character. If your character is……

  • terse                –   short burst of speech
  • angry               –   speaks through clinched teeth
  • nervous           –  stammers or rambles
  • domineering  –  silent and threatening or rages

If you’re writing science fiction you can develop you own language and your own rules. There is no limits. Just be consistent.

Hope this gives you something to think about when writing dialogue. Remember to differentiate through dialect and the dialect should match your characters position in society. Also remember to be consistent with speech patterns, unless an evolution in speech pattern is an integral part of the story (Flowers for Algernon, My fair lady).

There’s so much more information available on this subject. I just hit the highlights to get you thinking, and hopefully help you understand the importance of dialect.

Please consider joining me on this journey and press the FOLLOW button to receive new posts as they are published. Also if you have any comments or questions, please let me know what you think.

-Jan R



Using Dialect In Writing (Revised)

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