Episode 152: Exploring Character and Setting Through Language

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This week, Angeline and Holly discuss the ways in which you can deepen your characterization and make more believable settings by using the awesome power of words!

Listen on your favourite platform HERE

Discussion Points:

Revealing character through language:

  • Social status
    • Dropping of particular letters
  • Level of education
    • Mis-using words, mis-pronouncing words
  • Use of profanity
  • Talkative/non talkative
    • Characters that talk more and dominate a conversation are usually higher status or, of course, may be compensating for a lack of status
    • Anxiety can either make someone quiet or over-talkative
  • Private or over-sharer
  • Access to other cultures/languages
  • Colloquial or formal language
    • Do they speak differently to different people/in different situations?
  • What part of the world/country they’re from
    • Local dialect
  • Verbal tics
  • You can use all of these things to show contrast between your different characters. It can also cause conflict: what happens when two talkative people get together? What misunderstandings happen when people have a conversation in half sentences?

Revealing setting through language:

  • Particularly noticeable in historical fiction and fantasy/sci-fi
  • Words specific to your world
    • Jargon
    • Profanity, insults, and blasphemy
    • Idioms and proverbs
    • Curses and blessings
  • Words that are whispered
  • Words that are banned

If you’re being really strict:

  • Do you know the origin of a particular word or phrase?
    • When did it start being used? (Remember that usages change over time)
    • Who coined it? (Remember that first recorded usage is the first time it was written and used in a particular way. It may have been common vernacular before that)
  • Phrases/words attributed to Shakespeare:
    • All that glistens is not gold (merchant of Venice)
    • As good luck would have it (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
    • Break the ice (The Taming of the Shrew)
    • Fair play (The Tempest)
    • A laughing stock (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
    • In a pickle (The Tempest)
    • Pound of flesh (The Merchant of Venice)
    • Wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve (Othello)
    • Wild-goose chase (Romeo and Juliet)
    • And individual words such as: barefaced, belongings, dwindle, hostile, and overblown
    • By using these phrases, are you suggesting that Shakespeare existed in your world?
  • Dickens was another great inventor of words:
    • Such as: abuzz, the creeps, devil-may-care, flummox, on the rampage, and whiz-bang
  • Chaucer:
    • Words such as: plumage, dismembering, femininity, and galaxy

Resources

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Music credit:
Rogue One by Serge Narcissoff | https://soundcloud.com/sergenarcissoff
Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com/
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en_US

 

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