Tricks for Creating A Strong Character Voice in Dialogue

Making dialogue sound genuine is an art in itself. Creating a distinctive voice for every character in a story is no easy task.

Below are a couple of things which may help you write dialogue for each of your characters which steps off the page in a unique and individual way.

A Rainbow of Shoes and Legs for Breuninger by John Breed (1)

Vowel changes

- Ma name’s Captain William Kidd, for those as don’t know it.

Changing the vowel in a word’s spelling is a good way to suggest an accent, without having to resort to using a heavy dialect.

Methods of greeting

- Hail and hearty greetings to you, Gideon.

Every culture has it’s own forms of address. Think carefully about how each character might greet another.

How they refer to their friends

- Jack, you old dog, you’re a rogue and no mistake.

The way a character refers to his/her friends tells the reader a lot about them.

How they refer to their enemies

- I’ll not be called a friend to that man in my own home.

The same is true for enemies.

Choice of phrase

- Things as would make the hairs curl on the chest of a lesser man.

To ensure it’s the character who’s speaking, and not you putting words in their mouth, choose phrases a person with their background and experience would use.

Word choices

- Folk tell me you can cross over to the living.

Again, choose words your character would use. Think about the times they live in, the knowledge they have, their cultural references.

Brevity of speech

- Wanted his skull did he?

- That true?

A good way to make dialogue come alive is to cut as many words as possible and see how you can arrange what’s left.

Abbreviations

- Wasting’s a curse to us all.

If you’re not happy cutting a word completely, you can always use an abbreviation.

Syntax

- Things as would

- for those as don’t know

Play around with how each character strings together a sentence. Most of us don’t use the King’s English.

If you’ve found this post helpful I’d love to hear from you, or you might like to use the Share buttons below to tell others about it.

pictures c/o hovercraft doggy

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6 thoughts on “Tricks for Creating A Strong Character Voice in Dialogue

  1. Joanna says:

    I find another useful trick is to use Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic language choices. For example:
    “Look, I see we’ve got off badly here, let’s just watch what we say?” – Visual
    “I hear ya, loud and clear. Know what ah’m sayin’?” – Auditory
    “You feel me? You got moves to make a man feel alive.” – Kinesthetic.

    It’s a cheap trick, when all’s said and done, but it sometimes helps me to differentiate between different characters from similar backgrounds without resorting to labeling who is speaking.

    I’m a big fan of syntax changes, by the by!

  2. Sounds like a good way to differentiate between characters. Thanks for letting me know.

  3. Nice article, Lorrie. Thank you for sharing. Bringing a character to life through their conversation isn’t always easy to do, but it creates the most enjoyable characters.

  4. Wonderful article, Lorrie. Thank you. I’m going to print this out and tuck it into my writing reference books. Love how concise it is and yet, so informative. Terrific!

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