Tip Sheet Dialogue

How to Give Your Characters Distinctive Voices

1. VARY THEIR DEGREE OF ARTICULATENESS.

Is this person:

• Rambling? Direct and to the point?

2. VARY THE LENGTH AND STRUCTURE OF THEIR SENTENCES.

Does this person:

•Use short, clipped sentences? Run-on sentences?

• Drop words at the beginning of sentences?

•Use incomplete sentences—get halfway through and then switch gear into a new sentence?

• Fail to complete thoughts, but let them trail off?

3. VARY THE LENGTH OF THEIR TYPICAL SPEECHES.

Does this person:

• Like to volunteer lots of detail? Or require coaxing to speak at all?

4. VARY THEIR VOCABULARY.

Does this person:

• Sound educated or uneducated? •Use long words or short words?

• Have an expansive vocabulary or a limited one?

5. GIVE CHARACTERS THEIR OWN EXCLAMATIONS, CURSE WORDS, AND PET EXPRESSIONS.

These tend to be very personal. We all have our favorites and they become ingrained, so we use them without thinking. Assign your characters their own, and let them be fairly consistent (though not boringly repetitious) in using these phrases.

Does this person:

• Take the Lord's name in vain? How? "Oh God!" "My Lord!" "Jesus H. Christ!"

M Curse vulgarly or mildly? How? "Hell!" "Damn!"

"Darnit! " "Phooey!! " •Use sensory tags? Which ones? "You see... " "Listen

• Have a habitual way to express agreement? "Absolutely right." "Exactly." "No kidding." "You got that right."

• Have other characteristic expressions that he or she uses routinely?

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Responses

  • ahti
    How to write short stories with dialogue?
    7 years ago

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