Two remarkably simple lines of dialogue. And yet, you have immediately imagined a character; haven’t you? A man short in stature with an impossibly tall forehead, and not enough hair for a respectable comb-over. Wearing a brown tweed suit with a shotgun slung across his shoulder: one Elmer Fudd.
Would you have had the same mental picture had the character said, “Hush, for I seek to capture a hare”?
Nah, just not the same zing. Not only that, but the fellow who might say that sounds like he might have a hair up another place, so utterly unlike our daffy, befuddled Fudd.
Are you writing your dialogue truthfully? One way to help determine if you are is to have someone that you trust read your dialogue aloud to you. When I write, I constantly hear the words as they are being put on the page. I love the lyrical quality of language, the allure of alliteration. Still, in someone else’s mouth, the same beautiful passage that sounded so perfect in my mind may not translate into a realistic monologue or discussion between characters. No matter how lovely the words, if they don’t fit my character, if they do not resonate with what he or she would honestly say, then they are simply no good.
Language is one way in which to take a two dimensional character off the page and into three dimensions. Too many times, a truly gifted author will make the mistake of crafting an engaging story, plotting the action, even showing the reader the character up close and personal. But just as soon as he/she opens their mouth, the magic is over. Poof, gone up in smoke, all because you know the character really wanted to exclaim, “Holy shit,” but the author has cleaned their mouth out with soap.
Trust your characters to talk to you. Just be sure to listen carefully to them when they do.
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