Tuesday, April 19, 1994


I enjoy the use of diction as a technique to show the reader more of
my characters than they might normally expect from just the scene or from
the dialogue alone. Diction is important because it lets the reader in
on the story if it is done correctly.

There are several techniques for using diction correctly. Remember,
diction is a description of the character through tone, voice, and mostly
the style of writing in prose. A story about poor white children raised
in an orphanage should have the characters speak in dialogue consistent
with their setting:

"Tommy, do you think they'll let us keep the toys?" Billy said.

"Ah, forget about them. We'll never get to keep them. Besides,
who wants stupid toys anyway, I want to get out of here!"

Tommy picked up the torn blanket and threw it across the mattress.
He wanted his mom and dad to come and get him. They promised him
when he was little that they would always be there, but they lied and
he would never believe adults again. His little brother was the only
one who he could trust and not even he could know why Tommy didn't
want to keep the toys. Tommy did though, he wouldn't keep anything
that adults gave him because he knew they could take the toys away
whenever they wanted and he didn't want to lose anything ever again.

The blanket covered most of the old mattress, but it couldn't hide
all the stains where his tears had soaked through. He didn't want Billy
to ever see him cry, so he would bury his head in the mattress and wait
until Billy was asleep.

----------------- End of example --------------------------

The characters in this example are two children between the ages
of seven and eleven. The tone, use of adjectives, dialogue, etc. sets
them apart from children in other settings or situations. Should they
have been middle class kids in an affluent neighborhood, I might have
chosen a different style of writing to describe a similar situation.
As it was, the description given was written in a style not nearly as
elevated. The two kids in the example wouldn't probably speak with
two-dollar words or sound like they graduated from college already
either. Their means of communication would 'fit' their environment
and social-economic status.

Diction is what I consider the line between realism and forced
writing. I can't tell you how many times stories of mine had to be
re-written to take into consideration diction, but I continue to learn
and practice by observing behavior and putting that knowledge into
my work.

-------- Here is an example of elevated diction ----------

The majestic hue of colors spewed forth from the orb and enlightened
the whimsy of his paternal twin. Neither, not Thomas nor William could
fulfill their desire to encapsulate and escape the confines from which
they found themselves.

------- Translation ---> can anyone tell me what I tried to say?

Good luck,

J.L. Campbell

Originally posted Apr 19 1994, 7:38 am