Dazzling Dialogue—Part V

The character’s vocabulary should be unique to each one. What kind of expressions do they use? Do they have an accent? Are there “favorite” words they like to use? Their syntax. All these things come together to create dazzling and sparkling dialogue. Click to Tweet #dazzlingdialogue #amwriting


Where are you from? It’s one of the first questions we ask when we get to know someone. What would happen if an American New Englander met an American Southerner for the first time? How would sound?

“I’m from Baaaahhh-stun. Pleased to meet ya.”

“Well, ah swan. Ah’m from Mizzizzippi. Ah’m so pleased to make your acquaintance, sir.”

Yes, that’s a little cliché, but honestly rhythm in a person’s speech can be just as powerful as trying to sound out the words.

See if you can figure out where in the U.S. the following words come from?

Soda or Pop?

Bag or Sack?

Ar-KAN-sas River or AR-kan-saw River?

LANC-a-ster or LAN-caster.

Here are the answers: Soda is used east of Pittsburgh, PA. Pop is used west. Bag is used east of Pittsburgh. Sack is west. Ar-KAN-sas is used in Kansas. AR-kan-saw is used everywhere else but Kansas. LANC-a-ster is used in Lancaster County, PA. LAN-caster is the actor, Burt Lancaster. But many people use LAN-caster for our city in Lancaster County, PA because they don’t know any better.


For a writing assignment years ago, I was to put together a scene with three different people with three different ways of speaking. So, I chose a myself and a couple friends. One friend is Amish, the other an African-American woman from Philadelphia. I’ll try to reproduce a line or two of each right now. (Not their real names)

Me:      Hello Esther and Tanisha. How are you today?

Esther: I’m doing well. Thank you for asking.

Tanisha: I’m just fine. Fine, fine, fine. And, how are you, Miss Donna?

Me:      Would you like some tea?

Esther: Thank you. I would like some.

Tanisha: I would just loooooove some! What kinds have ya got? Did you know that green tea is good for ya?

Do you get the idea?

Using accents, verbal expressions from different parts of the country and the world, are all ways to produce dazzling and glittering dialogue. Click to Tweet #dazzlingdialogue #amwriting

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