Thursday, 9 April 2015

How I Write #3: Characterisation Through Dialogue and Mannerisms

In my last post, I offered an overview of how I go about creating characters in my stories. In this post, I will look more closely at developing a character through dialogue and mannerisms.

Creating believable, workable dialogue is something I will look at in a little more detail next month. For now, I just want to consider how you can use dialogue to establish your characters.

First things first: don't too bogged down in the idea of 'my character is from [insert place], so I have to show he has a funny accent'.

While you may wish to show a character's background (be it social or environmental) through, for example, dropped 'h's etc. (and this is perfectly fine), often you can create an effect of foreignness or regional dialect through word choices and sentence structure. If someone is not a native English speaker, they may craft their sentences a different way, and this can often be enough to give the reader a sense of where they are from without going overboard. The trick here is not to turn your character into a pastiche (unless of course that is the effect for which you are aiming).

Manner of speech is often a good way to show difference between your characters, especially if they have a lot of conversation together during the course of your story. As an example, in my latest novel. The Ragnarök Chronicles my two main characters are a mortal woman and a Norse god. The book is set in current times, so my human characters speak in contractions, using modern vocabulary and pop culture references. On the other hand, English is not a first language of the gods, so they speak all words in full and their style of speech and word choices tend to be more archaic.

Using ideas such as these, you can make your characters stand-out and give them their own personalities. Another way to enhance this is with the use of mannerisms.

We all have our little quirks. Perhaps we run our fingers through our hair or tap them on the table when we're nervous. Maybe be bite our lips or chew our nails. These types of personalities traits, when applied to characters, help to round them into believable figures a reader can relate too.

One of your characters may be clumsy; another could have an obsession with coffee. These are the sorts of things you would note in the character profiles you create when you start a story (see my last post for details), and then you would work these into the story. Don't overload the reader with facts, but ease these glimpses of your characters into the action as and when appropriate, and your cast will become less a mass of faceless figures and more a group of distinct characters.

Well, that gives you all a few things to think about today. Join me again next month when I'll look a little more closely at crafting dialogue.

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