What Language Do Your Characters Use?

What’s the missing ingredient to the story in which every character sounds like the next? It’s the individual’s language of life and personality.


There is a magic in interpersonal communication sometimes ignored by writers. Characters from different backgrounds and life experiences express themselves in unique ways.


A naturopath reminded me the other day that experienced energy healers speak a language of their own. One that those unaccustomed to the art find confusing. The etheric body is as incomprehensible to the initiate as the idea of space travel was to the average man before Da Vinci built his spacecraft between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. His concept inspired the language of science fiction writers.


Doctors discussing the latest medical breakthrough use a vocabulary foreign to their patients. Patients break the news to loved ones in terms used within their familial group.


Musicians in each genre of music have a particular language for the way they coax magic from their instruments and voices.


Lovers speak of inspiration, dedication, and hope found in the presence of each other.


Teenagers use phrases and abbreviations that seem to change overnight in popularity. Parents answer in expressions derided or ignored by the adolescents they address.


Friends converse with the language of past experiences and never-forgotten embarrassing moments. Men use physical manifestations of friendship—the shoulder slap, the fist bump. Women are more apt to be huggers.


Couples often communicate without words, but rather in a ballet of movement, a tilt of the head, a tightening of the lips. A smoldering glance across a room is a language as old as time.


Watch the way people converse in a crowd. Identify patterns of verbal and body language that you can bring to different characters. Build on the verbal and nonverbal signals they bring to every relationship.


How do your characters express their relationships? Why and when did they create their language of shared thoughts and emotions? Are they able to establish a mutual understanding or does the natural language of each build new tension and conflict between them?


There’s no one method of communication that we all share. And our language patterns change as we communicate with different individuals or groups of people. Make your characters vivid and unforgettable with communication patterns uniquely their own.