Writing Wednesday — Listening to how our Characters Speak

When Peppermint Barked, my 6th Spice Shop mystery, came out a few weeks ago, the owner of the local kitchen shop asked me to come by, chat with customers, and sign books. She’s sold a lot of my books – in a town without a bookstore, authors have to look for other partners and outlets – and I was delighted to hang out in the shop for an hour or so on a summer Saturday

The shop sells a line of infused olive oils and vinegars, and when I wasn’t chatting with potential readers, I listened in as two of the saleswomen gave samples and talked up the flavors, how the products could be used, what combos went well with each other and with what dishes. I’m a foodie, so I ate it up. But what I really loved was the language – and that’s why I want to share this moment with you. The terminology or lingo our characters use, the passion they speak with, even the sounds of their voices as they slip into something they know well and love – that’s another tool for bringing them alive on the page.

Think about that the next time you’re out and about. Eavesdrop, make notes, listen to what people say and how they talk about what interests them, whether its plants or tools or pets, or oil and vinegar.

6 thoughts on “Writing Wednesday — Listening to how our Characters Speak

  1. I eavesdrop all the time. When I’m writing, I characters develop their own voice but I always keep in mind their emotional state.

  2. I’m an eavesdropper from way back. In childhood, I was the third daughter, with very chatty father and sisters. Hard to get a word in edgewise. You are spot on with the necessity to capture not only the words, but the ways that people speak.

    What also jumped out at me in this post was your creativity. Cheyenne is currently without a single bookstore (don’t get me started…) so when I publish, I will need to make like Leslie and find “other partners and outlets.” Smart promo, that is. Thanks for the idea.

    • Thanks, Lynne. And you’re right — promotion requires creativity, too. Many used bookstores carry new books by local authors or of local interest. Since Cheyenne’s the capital, I assume it’s got a historical museum and the gift shop may be interested, if your book has a local angle. In small towns, we have to work a little harder to find outlets, but they tend to be very supportive.

  3. So important, Leslie. When you’re writing these books you’ll be able to blend in the terminology and language seamlessly. Your “foodie” readers with eat that up (sorry I couldn’t resist .

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