How to Create Unique Character Dialogue
When characters speak, it should be distinctive. Yet, when I write, if I’m not concentrating carefully, I tend to have all characters talk like–well, talk like me. Not good.
Separate files. One revision strategy that seems to help is to cut and paste a character’s dialogue into a separate file. Then read straight through that file and listen carefully for consistency, uniqueness, etc. Or compare two character’s dialogue files and see if they are too similar.
Study dialects. Another good idea is to study dialects. When I’m looking for a unique voice, I often go and study dialects from various parts of the U.S. Often the dialect descriptions get lost in the way each sound is made, which would only result in funny spellings for words. Instead, I’m looking for syntactic differences, or how sentences are structured.
An example would be the use of the negative positive in Boston English: “Let’s go see if we can’t get your car fixed.” Of course, you can add the extra strange spelling: “Yoah cah.” But I think the sentence structure goes a long way toward making the voice distinctive.
Or, this postcard from Dorset, England.