It’s no secret. Dialogue is important in a novel. Heck, to tell the very story, we as authors have to get it right.
Not only do we have to infuse our characters with quirks, interest, and goals—we need to give them depth and the perfect place to start is in the dialect. Now, I know what you’re thinking…Say what?
Accents, jargons, humor, and sarcasm are a good start. This can tell a reader a lot about the characters: where they’re from, what their view of the world may be, or even the characters current mood.
For example, if the hero/heroine says “whatever,” it could mean they just don’t care or perhaps they’re in a sour disposition possibly being sarcastic. As authors it’s vital that we send the right message. We want the readers to see our characters in the light we do.
The where a character is from can also be heard in their jargon. Words used by a character such as: crib, bro, or yo could indicate street lingo—perfect for the right contemporary novel. Whereas: aye, nay, bairn, or laird are clearly used in a historical setting. Let me point out the obvious here and say: Y’all…yeah, definitely a western or at the very least an indication of the south.
Showing a characters view of the world by a few simple words….hard— but can be done. For instance a character may not swear, so instead uses improv- cheese and rice or shut the front door. Maybe just maybe they have manners and use polite words such as: please and thank you. I know shock and awe—very rare in this day-in-age but believe it or not those people do still exist.
Humor on the other hand can be used to deflect. Characters can hide behind jokes/sarcasm to keep their real feelings or a dark past from emerging. As authors it’s important to know our characters from the inside out. How would they react? What would they say? And above all what appropriately fits the story line?
Worst case scenario: A cowboy using a Scottish brogue or an English knight using urban street lingo-unless it was a crossover genre of some kind.
Either way, it’s important to portray the correct character. As authors it’s our job to create real people on the pages. Otherwise the reader will be yelling, “Say What?”