Today I have been contemplating several things including what makes for a fascinating character in a story. To me, it is the same as what would make for a fascinating person that I meet in my day-to-day life. I thought about this for a while and decided that what makes a person fascinating for me is their way of thinking, how they handled any unusual situations they encountered, and the experiences they have had. However, what is fascinating for me, may not be fascinating for the readers of my stories. So I thought I would post a quick survey tonight and ask my blog audience: just what is it that you find fascinating about people in your lives and how does it differ from what you would consider a fascinating character in a work of literature, if it is different. Please feel free to post as long a response as you want in the comments section to this article. If you prefer, if you know of a good article on the subject, please include a link to it in your comment. I am eager to hear any new perspectives on this.
According to the Wikipedia definition (as of April 21, 2013), an idiolect is “…a variety of language that is unique to a person, as manifested by the patterns of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation that he or she uses.” This accords to the definition I learned in graduate school many years ago.
In my writing, I try to make as much use of idiolects and personal speech patterns as possible in order to distinguish speakers in sometimes lengthy conversations so that I can omit boring, repetitious attributions such as “he said”. I feel this also adds a sort of flavor to the story, because the way a person speaks tells something about the speaker in terms of emotions, psychology, and background among other things. Using idiolects adds a layer of subtle complexity to a story.
An example of this from my past is that of a college friend named Mike. One of Mike’s pet expressions was “Whatever!”, which he used often in a sort of sympathetic exasperation when someone persisted in doing something Mike thought stupid in spite of his advice to the contrary. On those occasions, he would chuckle and say “Whatever!” and walk away with a grin that said he would have fun seeing the outcome. If I were to write down a conversation between myself, Mike, and several of our friends, you could tell when Mike was speaking by his frequent use of the “Whatever!”, which the rest of us seldom used.
Used carefully and sparingly, an idiolect can be a subtle motif about each character that the author can use to remind the reader of some facet of the character at critical moments.