Everyone has a style of speaking. Some individuals have expansive vocabularies and others are more “plain spoken.” Neither is particularly good or bad when you are creating a fictional character —it’s more a question of matching a vocabulary to the speaker.
This came to mind when I was introducing the mother and grandmother of the protagonist in my novel-in-progress. I’ve noticed that endearments and other vocabulary habits can run in families, so both the mother and grandmother use “honey” when addressing the young woman. Her father always calls her by her name —especially when he’s chastising her for taking unwarranted risks.
One of the grandfathers is called Grandpa Reggie, but the other is always Marco —even his son calls him Marco. He’s a problematic personality and, I hope, his nefarious past makes him intriguing. I use the word “nefarious” (wicked, evil, sinful), but someone else might say his past was “checkered” or that he was simply a “bad” man. The word nefarious seems to sing to me, where checkered sounds too clichéd.
I’m a big fan of Stephen King’s “On Writing.” He famously stated that “The road to hell is paved with adverbs and I will shout it from the rooftops.” I’m not as adverse to adverbs as Stephen King, but I when you can choose “strolled” or “ambled” over “walked slowly” adverbs seem extraneous.
Of course all bets are off in dialog that must sound like real people. Some real people default to adverbs.
“I walked slowly over the bridge, killing time,” may not be a thrilling sentence, but it’s credible dialog. Another character might say, “I took my time walking over the bridge. I had time to kill.” Both variations say the same thing —with almost the same words, reflecting a different use of language and different speaking styles.
In my efforts to differentiate the characters’ speech, I’m paying attention to the word choices in dialog. Any thoughts on vocabularies?