Fear in Writing: OreGUN or OreGAHN?

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

OreGUN or OreGAHN?

Follows the perception post nicely, don't you think?  And here's the gist: say what you want, someone will always disagree.
Do you say toMAATo?  No, I sa toMAHto.
Do you say PILLow?  No, I say PELLow.
Do you say MOHNster?  No, I say MUNster.

Does this mean we can't get along?

Unfortunately in life, small differences like these often mean people can't get along.  Small differences can be the last straw in a political debate or the final word in a family argument.  Small differences can be huge.

And in writing, small differences can mean big changes for a character.  How your characters pronounce words can show readers where they're from, from which economic class they hail, and even the nature of their job. 

In addition to pronunciation, you can also express these things in choice of words.  Does your character use words like "obfuscate" and "propensity?"  Or do they stray toward "fuck" and "turd?"  (I know you're all laughing right now--I sware those are the first two that popped into my head!)

Regardless of your choices, what your characters say and how they say it say something.  It's part of the characterization of your protagonist, antagonist, and supporting players.

How do you use language in your writing?


  1. Michele - First, thanks for that wonderful video :-)! What a singer! As far as speech patterns, I agree that they can tell us a lot about characters. I have a linguistics background, so this fascinates me, and I'm thinking about it, anyway, because in my WIP, I've got people from a variety of different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. I have make them distinct in speech patterns without being stereotyped.

  2. The words your characters use definitely say a lot about them, whether it's the slang they use or unusual idioms.

    Very interesting post.

  3. You're definitely right. I'm working on a sci-fi novel now and trying to give the 2 MCs very different voices...one of the differences has to do with the language they use. Sometimes it's difficult as the writer to switch gears as I crawl into each of their heads.

    And as an Oregonian I can tell you it's pronounced ORegun. We hate hearing OreGAHN!

  4. I'm using two different points of view in my work in progress (I may be sorry I did it), but I find switching between the two, I have to change the voice, the mannerisms, the types of word choice. He uses phrases she would never use and vice versa.

  5. Since my settings are Boston and Southern California, I have to taper conversations accordingly. A little more attitude whiel in Boston, a little more laid back in Orange County. Its definately something to be aware of when writing a particular scene or event.

    Stephen Tremp

  6. I used to say OreGAHN until I moved out there and was told it was OreGUN.

    I have such a bad east coast/Boston accent, I'm afraid most of my female MC's have one too. I think it enriches the story if it's done the right way. I also think I'm more of a 'fuck/turd' kind of gal myself.

    And hey, how are you feeling. Missed you on Sunday.

  7. Oh, language and dialect and idioms are so important. Just but the dialogue alone you can get the gist of a character. You're so right.


  8. One of my characters is older and more poised, so his words come out more composed than the younger character's.

  9. Wow, you've struck on a very difficult task for me. I find idioms and speech patterns very important but usually do not do a good job of expressing this until I'm about half-way through a project. I guess it just sometimes takes my characters some extra time to develop.

    My biggest issue is allowing a character to use speech lower speech patterns. Sometimes all my characters end of sounding educated and upper-class.

    The good thing is that I normally find these inconsistencies early on and am able to correct.

    In my last WIP, I actually struggled for quite some time when I wanted my investigator from Atlanta, Georgia to say the word "Y'all" to his team. I wanted to place the word strategically but only use it once so it would seem natural.

  10. I come from a country full of mountains, and consequently, lots of weird local dialects (the mountains were communication barriers). And all this dialect mess comes together in the universities, and everybody are quite happy with it.

    I agree with you that the way a writer lets characters speak tells alot, about social position, background, attitude and even geographical origin (the swearing and cursing increase towards north).

    Very good and interesting post >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  11. OreGUN!!!!!!!!!! OR - REE - GUN!!!

    I was born and raised there and it drives me nuts to hear people say it wrong.

    Okay, I'm done now...

  12. I think it’s important to give all my characters different speech patterns and vocabularies, otherwise, they all sound like they belong to the same family.

  13. Different speech and gestures for each character is very important. It gives them originality.