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Make Your Characters Stronger

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 1, 2010

How can you make your characters sound stronger when they speak? Think of the ways authoritative people talk in terms of their word choices and tone of voice.

Choose one of each:

1.A. “I think we should hit the beach at dawn. That way, we’ll probably be able to avoid the patrol boats.”

B. “We’ll hit the beach at dawn so we can avoid the patrol boats.”

2.A. “It is my belief that it would be best if we took the right-hand path.”

B. “Let’s make a right-hand turn.”

3.A. “I suppose I could agree.”

B. “I agree.”

4.A. “Oh, dear, perhaps this yellow dress would be more suitable. It brings out the highlights in my hair, and I do want Butler to notice me.”

B. “The yellow dress complements my hair, so I’ll wear that one. Butler has to notice me tonight.”

5.A. “I guess it would be all right if you borrowed my bracelet, but if you don’t mind, please see if you can return it tomorrow.”

B. “You can borrow the bracelet, but I’d like it returned tomorrow.”

If you chose any “A” answers, you’re making your character sound weak. To strengthen your heroine, have her sound positive and determined. Characters should focus on their goals, not on their appearance or performance. Avoid phrases such as I think, I guess, I suppose, dear me, maybe we should, It is my belief that, I don’t know.

Of course, exceptions to the rule do exist. Just make certain your character doesn’t sound wimpy when he speaks or has an introspection. Cutting extra verbiage can help. Aim for precision of speech, but avoid curtness. Remember that dialog should further your plot or reveal character. Phrases that reveal hesitation or self-doubt may indicate places that need revision unless you purposefully want your character to act this way.

Strong heroes appeal to readers, so take out your pen and get to work. Good luck!

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5 Responses to “Make Your Characters Stronger”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by LindaConrad, Nancy Cohen. Nancy Cohen said: Make Your Characters Stronger: http://wp.me/pHSwk-fj [...]

  2. M. E. Kemp said

    Nancy – sometimes characters have to be namby-pamby and indecisive. One of my own favorite characters is a very obnoxious constable who goes around quoting the Bible for every occasion. Marilyn aka: M.E. Kemp, DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER

  3. That’s okay if it suits your character, but we usually don’t want our heroine to be wishy-washy unless part of her characer arc is to find her own strength. Anything goes for secondary characters.

  4. Finding and remaining true to the character has to come out in every aspect. Actions as well as words. And I agree, hero and heroine need to be strong enough characters to carry the book. And maybe that’s why the secondary characters are such fun to write!

    Terry
    Terry’s Place
    Romance with a Twist–of Mystery

  5. Danny said

    Thank you, that’s a veri nice advice.

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