Everyone has a unique voice, whether you be from Boston in the U.S. or Ireland in the U.K., but how can a writer use this fact to make dialogue that is unique from character to character? Well, there are lots of components to this, which will inevitably have to be covered in future posts,  but at its most basic level, dialogue stems from how people talk.

If you want to write realistic dialogue, it is important to note that there are three major components to speech: phenology, morphology, and syntax. Phenology is basically how people pronounce certain words, morphology is the choice of one word over another that basically means the same thing, and syntax is all about overall word choice.

For example, if someone says “worsher” as opposed to “washer,” you’ll know this is an example of phenology where they’re talking about a washing machine. Different people pronounce these words differently depending on their geography. Morphology works similarly in that you’ll say something different depending on where you live, except you’ll use a different word as opposed to the same word that’s pronounced differently. Fireflies are a good example of this. Where I live in the south, firefly is the accepted word, but in other places firebugs or lightning bugs are just as acceptable. Syntax is a little more complex, but it’s self-explanatory, so I won’t go any further on that.

The point is, we’re all going to talk differently, and it’s your job as a writer to convey that in how your characters talk. Geography is very important in the real world, because different kinds of people settle in different places, and therefore different accents and even dialects develop. If you want to create realistic dialogue, even in fantasy, these are all things to keep in mind.

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–N.L., 2017