It''s Not Just What You Say, But How - Writer's Digest

It''s Not Just What You Say, But How

It''s Not Just What You Say, But How
Author:
Publish date:

How a character speaks—diction—can be just as important as what he or she says. It''s important that you craft dialogue that is consistent with the characters you have created—that you speak in a character''s voice, always, but most especially when you are in that character''s POV, when "voice" extends to anything—speech, thoughts, descriptions—presented by that character.

One way to give a character a distinct voice is through dialect or accented speech. Dialect and accents have always presented a particular problem to writers. In the 19th century it was common to lay it on thick. Not so today.

Readers don''t want to have to work to figure out what''s being said; but they still expect us to characterize for them! What''s a careful writer to do? Be, well, careful. A little indication can go a long way. For example, you can simply tell the reader what the accent is, as long as it is one they are likely to recognize:

"How are you, Tom?" Duncan said with his slight Scottish brogue.

Most readers can imagine what a brogue sounds like, and from this point on, they will hold that in mind without your having to throw in dialect or accent heavily. An occasional hint is all you need:

"I always thought you were a fine lass," Duncan said.

The speech of characters who have English as a second language can be indicated by dropping words and varying the order:

"Excuse. Please to tell, how far to ocean?"

Readers can be especially critical when dialect and/or accents are inaccurate or difficult to decipher. Play around with word order. Listen to people who are learning the language. Take notes. Your dialogue will not only be richer, but more easily understood by your readers.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: The 3 Prime Rules of Horror Writing, Contest Deadlines, and More!

Welcome to the first installment of a new series! There's always so much happening in the Writer's Digest universe that even staff members have trouble keeping up. So we're going to start collecting what's on the horizon to make it easier for everyone to know what's happening and when.

Bell_10:25

Lenora Bell: When Fairy Tales Meet Reality TV

Bestselling historical romance author Lenora Bell discusses researching, avoiding info-dumps while still charming readers, and how her latest book was inspired by her life.

Major_10:24

Three Keys to Crafting Chemistry Between Characters

Romance author Michelle Major explains her three go-to tips for ensuring your characters have believable chemistry.

Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

Take Two: Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

No one wants to break the bank to learn how to write a screenplay. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares practical tips on saving money on the pursuit of a screenwriting career.

richard_adams_watership_down_quotes_a_rabbit_has_two_ears_a_rabbit_has_two_eyes_two_nostrils_they_ought_to_be_together_not_fighting

10 Epic Quotes From Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Here are 10 epic quotes from Watership Down, by Richard Adams. The story of a group of rabbits who escape an impending danger to find a new home, Watership Down is filled with moments of survival, faith, friendship, fear, and hope.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Quintilla Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the quintilla.

plot_twist_story_prompts_fight_or_flight_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Fight or Flight

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's fighting time.

Garfield

Vintage WD: 10 Rules for Suspense Fiction

John Grisham once admitted that this article from 1973 helped him write his thrillers. In it, author Brian Garfield shares his go-to advice for creating great suspense fiction.

Pennington_10:21

The Chaotically Seductive Path to Persuasive Copy

In this article, author, writing coach, and copywriter David Pennington teaches you the simple secrets of excellent copywriting.