Express Yourself! Using Colloquialisms in Fiction

I write for a market where often even mild epithets such as darn or heck are banned. How can a writer inject regional flavor and help round out a character if that character can’t express him/herself freely?
Writing Tip for Today: I would never write offensive language for my market, but I want my characters to be human. What can any writer do when the character hits his thumb with a hammer?

  • Metaphors/Similes. Many times, epithets, however tame, are cliche. Use metaphor or simile to create unique expressions for your characters.
  • Be Creative. Most “clean” book lines would tolerate a regional or original saying. For instance, I know a wonderful older woman whose favorite expression is: frosted bellybuttons!
  • Use the Surroundings. Your book’s setting may offer opportunities to create flavor-packed expressions which don’t offend. If your story is set in the desert, use references to the heat or the barren landscape. If it’s a coastal setting, references to life being like the tides, the waves or the sand fleas might be appropriate. 

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

1 comments on “Express Yourself! Using Colloquialisms in Fiction

  1. My parents would say “Oh fudge” and it didn’t occur to me until well into my adult years what that was a substitute for.

    My genre and my characters are free to use more colorful language, though some of my friends and acquaintances may be shocked when I reach the publication stage.

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