Author, Barbara Studham

Creator of memoir, fiction, and the children's picture book, Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome


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Writing Tips: Dialogue

What a wonderful addition to narrative!

Hearing accents

Hearing accents

I love characters in books who talk too much. Despite their annoying chatter, they advance the storyline. Fiction requires dialogue. Without it, the story would read as boring. Now comes the “however.”

However, as most people do not speak perfect English, a writer needs to adapt to the accent/ class/tone/logic of the character who is speaking. A simple example: no English cockney character would speak in an affluent manner, unless that person had deliberately changed his style; in which case, that scenario should be added to the storyline.

Writing Tips: Dialogue

Look, for a moment, at the following characters. One says, “Yesterday, I called on you, but you appeared not to be at home.” The other replies with, “That’s strange. I know I was in.” Two different class of characters: the first completes his sentence with “at home”; the second leaves the preposition “in” hanging. If both characters were considered of the same class they would either say, “Yesterday, I called on you, but you weren’t in.” with the reply being “That’s strange. I know I was in.” Alternatively, the first would say, “Yesterday, I called on you, but you appeared not to be at home.” with the reply, “That’s strange. I assure you, I was home all day.”

Speaking styles reveal all. Amazingly, from how the character speaks, the reader can tell where he is from; his mode of upbringing; his class status; his principles; his personality, and his attitude. Invariably, readers are less drawn to a character by what he does, and more by what he says, and the way he speaks.

That is why authors should read books. Dissecting other authors’ work is part of being a good writer. It helps to avoid obvious mistakes when writing a manuscript. It also helps to learn how a character’s personality is revealed through their dialogue.

Keep Writing!