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Okay, I know I posted recently about something along these lines, but I just couldn’t leave it alone.

Character voice is word choice, not accent. But character voice is also defined by regionalism, and while accents are not easy to write, they can be implied.

I’ve been thinking a bit about how word use can define character voice, as well. Recently, I came across the word “nebby”, which evidently means curious to inhabitants of Pittsburgh (Thank you, Professor!), which I had not heard before.

Also, would Obi-Wan ever use slang? Or would Tony Stark ever say “You lot”? (Yes, there are British Avengers fans out there–I can not take credit for this one–someone online mentioned that they wished that there was such a thing as Reverse Brit-Picking for Avengers fanfiction. If anyone from the British Isles wants to write Avengers fanfic–I VOLUNTEER!!! I may not be from New York, but at least I can help you make them sound American. ;-P)

The other thing that inspired this post was a rambling headache. (Yes, I am sorry.)

I was thinking about how different words mean different things to different people (like, in Great Britain, a “jumper” is the same thing as a “sweater” to us. Also, instead of “cell” they say “mobile.” (Major plot point in a Sherlock episode, here. Which is really crazy because the MacGuffin thingy is the same as Agent Carter‘s.)

And then, I was thinking about my uncle who lives in New York but was not born there. Thus, to an American, he’s not a Yankee. To an American, a Yankee is a born-and-bred New Yorker (I think it’s more the city than the state, but I could be wrong.) Meanwhile, in Hogan’s Heroes the Cockney former thief, forger, and all-around conman Newkirk regularly calls his American counterparts “Yanks”. I could go into the etymology of the word, but that’s really not the point here.

The point is that tone can be regional, and you can learn quite a bit about a character, not only by their word choice, but also how they use those words.

It’s very important that each character just sounds like their role. One example of how this is brilliant: How To Train Your Dragon. From the first moment he opens his mouth, you can tell that Hiccup is the sarcastic social pariah. And the phony Scottish accents of the adults? They create an illusion of time and place, even if it’s not an entirely historically accurate illusion… (Well, most modern-day occupants of the British Isles have at least one Scandinavian ancestor… Which is why Steve Rogers can be Irish when his name doesn’t sound like it. Rogers is probably a corruption of a common surname type–Rogerson–which is sort of normal for historical Scandanavians… just like Ransom in Lewis’ Space Trilogy comes from “Ranulf’s Son”… *gets pulled off-stage by a giant hook*)

In short, whether you’re looking to emulate Faulkner or simply to try your hand at creating the regional illusion, word choice is as important as–if not more important than–accent. Maybe you won’t even need to imply accent if you use word choice correctly…

And your spell check won’t want to strangle you as you put together the final drafts of your characters’ dialogue.

You’re welcome.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless!