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your characters’ speech makes them real

2 min read

In the previous post, I talked about a book that explores language as a way to influence and exert power over people. And that only happens because the language used for that purpose is somehow familiar to the ears of the influenced ones or it resonates to them in a way they believe in what’s told to them.

The way a character talks, their lingo, their idiolect, their accent, it all makes them real to the reader for the same reason. When writers write dialogues and even narratives with “an accent” or when they use jargon in the speech of their characters, we believe them more.

I love that as I also love languages and diction in literature. And writers can make it really simple or extremely complex. It all depends on the purpose and the reader.

For example, Faulkner explored that a lot in THE SOUND AND THE FURY, I was mad at first sight when I read it but then I understood. When I read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, by Harper Lee, I could hear the southern accent in the narrator’s voice. Stephen King does that a lot too, it’s wonderful and so blended that it feels natural. And how amazing it is to witness the speech development of Charlie in FLOWERS TO ALGERNON, by Daniel Keyes.

On the other hand, that style can also be a little daunting. THE BOOK OF DAVE, by Will Self, has been a challenge for me for years. That book has an amazing plot and premise but it is written in phonetic spelling of the London accent and slang making it pretty difficult to read if you’re not familiar with the lingo. I won’t quit, though.

So, yea, it is an amazing technique, but it also can limit the range of your readers. However, it can be a great way to make your writing more real.

– João

☕️ Now, what do you think about it? Do you write with an accent? Do like reading books with an accent or specific idiolect? Do you agree that lingo makes everything more real and familiar?

↓ first seen on @beardbetweenthelines

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