I want every character in my novel to be distinct. Can you suggest ways to do that?
Dear Book Dude…
Try crafting distinctive dialogue for every character. Here are ways to do that—and they work for showing characters’ overall personalities as well their emotions in particular moments. Characters who are worriers, or who are tense or stressed in a scene, can speak in sentence fragments and incomplete thoughts. Characters who are impatient, or dismissive, or highly confident but maybe low-empathy can interrupt others. Nervous characters may let their dialogue trail off (use ellipses to show the trail-off), or they can ramble or express their thoughts as questions, like, “I have to go there? Myself?” Characters who lack self-confidence or who are followers also express themselves in questions. Compare that to the confident leader (or the character who wants to project themself as such), who speaks in declaratives, saying, “I have to go there. Myself.” Feel the difference? Distinctive ways of speaking can make characters feel so different that readers don’t even need a dialogue tag to know who’s speaking.
The Editor, Deborah Halverson, has been editing books for over 25 years and specializes in Middle Grade/Young Adult fiction and nonfiction, New Adult fiction, and picture books. For her editorial guidance in making your manuscript ready for submission to agents and publishers or for self-publishing, click Editorial services. Learn more in her books: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies and Writing New Adult Fiction.