The Practice–Speaking the Language of Your Characters



I don’t know about you but I come up with my best ideas when I’m walking. And yesterday, I thought about writing a post about delving into the language of fictitional characters.

The thought came to me because I was considering the research that it takes for an author to create dialogue and scenarios around a character’s career, lifestyle, or region that they inhabit. Some people would call this the vernacular of the character. And just like architects speak and write about vernacular houses for particular regions, authors also populate their novels with the right lingo, terms, and language for their particular characters to make the story more real in a reader’s mind.

Now, some folks would say that they’re not writing a historic or a realism novel. But even if you are creating a new realm for your characters to inhabit you still need to define a language and liguistics for your charcters and scenarios. Think of J.R.R. Tolkein’s magical languages for his different groups of characters, as an example, or the Harry Potter series characters and their unique lingo.

This sounds simpler than it is. And many budding novelist fail because they use everyday and modern language for their characters based on shallow observations. They forgot to do their research and hone their characters’ conversations and daily encounters. For instance, if your main character is a doctor, then wouldn’t it behoove you to research medical terminology and spend time in a medical environment as well as, interview medical doctors?

With all my screenplays and novels, I delved into research, interviewing people in various real-life situations, reading books, and even picking up dictionaries with terminology or foreign languages and still, I left much uncovered. For my screenplay Love and Intangible States, I observed a life drawing class as well as, I traveled to Vancouver, Canada where most of the story takes place.

And for my novel “Love Quadrangle” I set the story mostly in a local setting where I could visit the places where my characters inhabited. And for Quebec, since I wasn’t able to travel to the Canadian Province, I researched through books and interactions with people from Quebec as well as, a French language teacher who had a friend who lived in Quebec.

I also researched brain damage, and different types of music by sending questions to neurologists who study music and brain damage. And I observed an architecture firm to research my architect character and interviewed an architect. She also read one of my earliest drafts of the novel which she found realistic.

So, here is a list of learning the language and lingo of your characters:

  • Research, research, research
  • Read through terminology and language dictionaries for words
  • Interview people with the same professions as your characters
  • Hang out in the locales of your characters (for realism novels)
  • Join social media groups of your characters lifestyles, interests, and professions
  • Read similar books (but don’t just rely on that)
  • Travel
  • Spend time in a library collecting notes until your brain is overflowing with details
  • Write short scenarios with dialogue before beginning the novel
  • Interview your characters
  • Watch realistic movies (documentaries as opposed to fictional movies)
  • Try out your conversations and character languages on a native of that language or lingo or profession

Some authors love research and others despise it. But there is nothing more enjoyable to the reader as a well-researched and defined novel. Readers need to gain trust with their authors and they do this when the authors make their stories believable. We all appreciate researched novels.

As a journalist, I gained research skills in my early twenties at the same time I was developing my poetic voice. Both skills have served me well. And I appreciate reading well-researched and engaging novels. I think we all do.

If you would like creative coaching with astrology, experience in the arts, and metaphysical tools, sign up for an hour session with me or we can negotiate a fee for a series of sessions. I have experience with self-publishing, the writing process (over 30 years), and motivation. Just ask. And check out Belle Author on Facebook and Patricia Herlevi on YouTube.