Write the Word Your Character Would Say

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A concise, detailed, step by step resource for all writers. — Jamie West, editor coordinator, Pelican Book Group

More about Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days after today’s post.


Choose words your characters would actually say. Also, check the meaning of words you use. Sometimes it takes an editor to spot these word problems, but if you consider the following aspects of writing dialogue, you’ll more likely choose the right words.

The Word Your Character Would Say

Consider these 4 dialogue aspects.

1. Character’s Upbringing

Anne grew up on a farm with acres of corn and cabbage.

Original: Anne examined the object in her hand. “It’s shaped like a spaceship’s fuselage.” 

Better: Anne examined the object in her hand. “It’s shaped like an ear of corn.” 

Image by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay

2. Character’s Age and Education

The character is eighteen, just out of high school, and works in a grocery store’s bakery.

Original: “I like the guy. He laughs at my quips.” 

Better: “I like the guy. He laughs at my jokes.”

3. Character’s Job or Profession

The character is an actuary and is talking to a fellow actuary.

Original: “The chance is great that the amount to cover the claims is too low.” 

Better: “The probability is high the claim reserves are insufficient.” 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

4. The Character’s Audience

The character is a professional young woman. She’s speaking to her two elderly aunts who are sitting on the porch shelling peas.

Original: “I like my significant other, but he prefers fewer tactile endearments.” 

Better: “I like my boyfriend, but he never holds my hand or puts his arm around my shoulders.” 

Write the Right Word

1. The Word’s Meaning

Watch out for words that belong to a similar type but have different meanings.

Original: I dislike his attitude and the way he never introduces me to his friends, but enough of my lamenting. 

Better: I dislike his attitude and the way he never introduces me to his friends, but enough of my complaining. 

2. The Correct Name for an Object

Google names of things that might have a generally or professionally accepted name.

Original: Dr. Brown entered the patient’s hospital room and set a chessboard on the roll table. 

Better: Dr. Brown entered the patient’s hospital room and set a chessboard on the overbed table. 

What is an example you’ve noticed in which an author used words the character wouldn’t say or used the wrong word?

Zoe has developed a guiding resource for beginning writers. Her method is designed for brainstorming, shaping, and revising the early draft of a manuscript. General and specific tips are offered for applying rules of writing to enhance one’s story for a workable second draft. By exploring the plot line of Love Comes Softly, writers may examine their own work for stronger plot and characterization. Valuable tools are offered that enable the writer to develop a workable draft in only 30 days!

—Yvonne Lehman, award-winning, best-selling author of 48 novels

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is chock-full of practical techniques. Numerous examples clarify problem areas and provide workable solutions. The action steps and blah busters McCarthy suggests will help you improve every sentence, every paragraph of your novel. If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract.

—Denise K. Loock, freelance editor, lightningeditingservices.com

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American Christian Fiction Writers

American Christian Fiction Writers

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