Writing Masterclass: Dialect, Body Language & Character Representation

After a discussion about vocabulary and phrasing, I realised that a lot of how we represent ourselves is via the way we speak and the ways we come across. Our appearance, our dialect, body language and even our own opinions of ourselves can be targets for opinions. I realised that I could use this information within my character creation to create realistic, likeable or even dislikeable characters.

For instance, to use definitives in your writing your character might say something like “I am depressed.” They have defined themselves, they are depressed. A character might say this if they have a flair for the dramatic or are trying to emphasise a point. For a more likeable scenario, if your character wanted to imply they are depressed, they might say “I feel depressed.” This way it shows the character is not defined by their sadness or their emotions but instead are temporarily experiencing them, with the potential to outlive the feeling.

This is obviously a subjective topic, a lot of people might say that they are something with no intention of meaning to come across in any which way, the discussion I had was purely a suggestion to allow myself to open my mind to ideas and ways to develop my characters. The point I wanted to make this week is that everything you say or do is interpreted in some way, either dictated by societal viewpoints or by a personal opinion. You and your characters are being judged. When writing, it becomes imperative that everything your character says or does is for effect, to appear in the way you want them to appear.

If you already have your character developed then you should be able to incorporate the above into your editing process, you should be able to pluck scenes out and check to ensure your protagonist or antagonist or even your side characters are being represented in their best light to show off their character traits.

I want you to pick a scene you have written, a scene where your character is really the focus, maybe even an introductory scene. Once you have this scene I want you to go through each sentence and reflect on how the character makes you feel, highlighting any sentences or phrases that conflict with your character’s personality. As an example I’ve added an unedited segment of my writing below and selected a few key sections that could be adjusted.

In this scene, Artyom is trying to create a false sense of security for Amy as he tries to build her trust. He is very aware about his appearance and how he comes across.

As he approached Amy he put on his best shy smile, his hand extended. (Could be too forward- if he is acting shy, extending a hand with the intention to stop her is possibly too intrusive and out of character.).

“Excuse me!” He raised his nervous voice, catching Amy’s attention. (Instead of describing his nervous disposition I could adjust this so that his body language emphasises this).

She jogged on the spot before stopping to give Artyom her full attention.

“I’m sorry to bother your run,” he stuttered, “I am looking for directions to the hospital, I heard it was somewhere around here. I’m a new intern and I’d hate to be late on my first day.” He rambled on, knowing that he sounded pathetic and nervous. He wanted to show her that he wasn’t a threat. (This is too obvious. I need to tone down the describing and start showing).

To Artyom’s relief, her eyes softened and she played just like putty into his hands.

“Aw bless you, it’s further up the path,” she pointed behind her, a sign clearly pointing to ‘Addenbrooke’s hospital’, “just follow those signs and you’ll get there in no time.”

He looked up at the sign and chuckled,

“You know what, I didn’t even see the sign.” (Is chuckling too menacing? His character needs to act nervous but he has the odd slip up as he’s not a professional actor/spy).

Artyom thanked Amy for her help and began following the route to the hospital.

 

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