Character quotes, you know, the things your character says like “Cowabunga Dude” are verbal tags that define him for the reader.
Most people would know that this quote can only come from Bart Simpson.
There are a number of ways we can do this. Let’s take a look at a few.
Dialects And Accents
Dialects and accents can be tricky to portray.
New writers usually make mistakes is by over doing it.
Such as: “the stink of this fish is enough to send me to the hospital” becomes “zee steenk of dzees feesh ees enough to send mee to zee ospeetal” when a French character says it.
A better way to portray an accent is by the use of foreign phrases and portraying stuttering and hesitance. For example, “The stink of this… this poisson, this fish,” he said remembering the English word, is enough to send me to the ‘os pi tal.”
Word choice is critical when portraying foreign accents and regional dialects.
Take the phrase “gully washer” for a rain storm. Is this word more likely to come from a Wall Street banker or a farmer in Kentucky?
You see? The right word speaks volumes about the character that uses it.
Familiar Sayings, Or Verbal Tags
Everyone uses them. We might not realize it though.
For example, you might know someone who typically responds “I know, I know, I know” or use the phrase “yada, yada, yada”. Just hearing those statements will remind you of that person.
If a character has a typical phrase he uses the reader will know immediately he is talking and not someone else.
Elevated Speech Vs. Colloquial Speech
The level of diction a person uses says a lot about a person as well. If a character quotes Shakespeare he’s completely different from one who quotes M&M.
One of these character quotes is by Hucklebery Finn and one is by Gandalf the wizard from The Lord of The Rings.
“Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and a body ain’t got no business doing wrong when he ain’t ignorant and knows better.”
“He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”
If you can’t figure out who said what send me an e-mail and we’ll have a conversation : )
I love slang words because they make dialogue come alive and jump off the page.
For example, if you have a character from Australia, you may want to have him bog into a coldie with his cobber just to make him sound like a dinkum Aussie. That is…to enthusiastically chug a beer with his friend just to make him sound like a true Australian.
Speed And Sentence Structure
These two speaking styles can be portrayed by long, run on sentences or short simple ones.
Compare these two character quotes. “Do you remember that fish that I was telling you about, you know the fish that stinks so bad it’s about to put me in the hospital, well, I’m not joking, I’m about to friggin’ puke if you don’t get rid of that thing, so it’s going or I’m going, so what’s your decision?”
“Well”, he said as he leveled his eyes on the horizon.
“I can see your point.
The fish is a bit strong smelling. But…then again…isn’t that the definition of a fish”? He hooked his belt loops and ruminated on this for a bit as he flicked a stone with the tip of his boot.
“Hmm. Well. As I see it we can wait it out…see who lasts longer…us or the fish.
Just so long as we know we may be going to the hospital before long.”
OK, so now we’re “ofeesheeally” done with this “steenky feesh”, time to end before I “steenk” up the page.
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