I have lived all over the country. I was born and raised on the east coast, spent about four years in San
Diego when I was in the Navy, I’ve lived briefly in the Chicago area and San Antonio. And now I am in Iowa. Anywhere you go in America you will notice people speak differently, not just their accents but in their colloquialisms and what they call certain items. It is said that Eskimos have over fifty words for snow, in America that can be said about soda—or ‘pop’ as they call it here in the Midwest. In Massachusetts some call it ‘tonic’. In the south many refer to it as ‘coke’ no matter what brand or flavor it really is.
To make my characters and dialog more believable I try to incorporate the fact that folks may differ in
how they speak even when using the same language. I’ve made note of the soda phenomenon in
Life Among the Dead a few times. Recently I’ve noticed a new one here, many people I work with have a tendency, even in writing, to drop the words ‘to be’ from what they are saying. For example, if they want to say ‘this floor needs to be mopped’ they are more likely to say ‘this floor needs mopped’. I’m having trouble incorporating this into my stories, I figure both my spellcheck and editor will blow a grammatical fuse. I can’t just insert such a manner of talking without making note of it somehow lest it be ruled as a typo on my end.
I’ll figure it out. I’m still in the initial phase of writing Life Among the Dead 4, this will be the fourth and final installment. It’s weird to say that when so many haven’t been able to read parts two and three yet. Soon, I promise.
Speaking of making characters believable, it helps to have a real person in mind when crafting them. Many of my bigger characters have been conceived by thinking of what actor I’d like to see in the role, and just getting their voice in my head while I work on the dialog. Uncle Bruce, this may come as no surprise, was inspired by Bruce Campbell of the Evil Dead movies. Once I had his voice in my head the one-liners came easy. You will see many examples of this as the other LATDs come out. I actually changed a character to fit an actor. Book three will introduce you to a man named Brass that I know you will all love. After I was all done
with the first draft I was watching the Daily Show and there was one of my favorite actors, Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones. As a man of average height it doesn’t come natural to write a little person, but that actually works wonderfully for the character, it adds so much and I can’t wait for everyone to meet him. Peter Ds influence on Brass gives him an underdog quality yet the strength to overcome all the obstacles life has for him.
Believability is important for a book, even in the most unbelievable situations your characters should react and speak as humanly as possible. How often have you read a book or watched a movie and thought that the characters were doing things that no person in their right mind would. Or, thought a character was too badass or weak. I love writing tortured badass male characters and then deconstructing them, Like
Bruce in Life Among the Dead’s third section. When you can show ‘weakness’ in such a strong character it just makes them more real and in a way stronger. That’s just my opinion, read it for yourself.
Interesting fact about Life Among the Dead. There is a small boy character in the first part, on West 8th street, named Damian that is actually based on an actual kid I once watched while working in a Psychiatric ward. Since I don't wish to ruin any of the story for anyone, I'll let people ask to know more after they have read the book.
So, that's my first bit of writing advice from someone who shouldn't be giving writing advice. Please let me know if this has been helpful, and feel free to ask questions about any of my stories including my newest Fortune Cookie.