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Showing posts from May, 2019

Letting Characters Speak

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Imagine a scene in a book in which an inspector asks three different characters the same question: “Were you there last night?”

As authors, our job is to make each character’s voice distinctive enough that adding “Jose said” or “Jae Lin replied” becomes all but redundant. Not just with words that reflect our characters’ personalities, education levels, ages, and regions, but with, to name a very few, some of their preferred clich├ęs, consistent emotional timbres, and verbal rhythms. 

I’m still, ahem, attempting to hone this authorial skill. I’m currently reading a book by an author who plumps out all his characters and manages, despite juggling a half-dozen protagonists, antagonists, and bit players, to give each one a rich enough personality to render them technicolor, relatable human beings. Damn him. 

Not for the first time, it occurs to me to create a kind of character bank in which I list not only the usual traits like appearance and background but also some verbal quirks: overused t…