What You See is What You Get

A couple of weeks ago I talked about characters that don’t say what they mean. You can read that post here. Basically, most people talk indirectly about their feelings, and often the stronger the emotions are, the more indirect their language.

But not all characters are like that.

Once in a while, you may come across one that has no barrier, no face—what you see is what you get. The dialogue for these characters may be a lot simpler to write, but can still be effective, especially when you need someone to say something others wouldn’t dare.

In Harry Potter, Luna Lovegood always says what she means, which sometimes makes Harry feel uncomfortable. In Half-Blood Prince, she has no problem acknowledging she doesn’t have friends. While other people who say this might look for sympathy or attention, Luna doesn’t have an ulterior motive. Other times in the novels, she provides straightforward wisdom in ways other characters can’t.

In the clip below, notice how she talks openly to Harry.

Without embarrassment, Luna explains that nargles have taken her shoes. Without guard, she tells about her mother being dead, how she died, and how it still makes her sad. Without shame, she says that she believes Harry, when few others dare voice it. And when she offers wisdom, she simply speaks her mind.

So, don’t feel like you have to make what all your characters say encrypted and indirect. Maybe your character is the type who says what he means.

Unless you have a good reason that relates to the theme or story line of your narrative, avoid making all characters like Luna. It’s not realistic. How many people do you know like that? Likely less than those who speak indirectly.

On a final note, keep in mind that the majority of characters switch between direct and indirect dialogue, just as people do. A high school student might speak indirectly to her crush but openly to her best friend. Another character may speak openly most of the time, but start talking indirectly when emotionally charged (or vice versa).

You can play around with variations to make the interactions between your characters more interesting.

September C. Fawkes

About September C. Fawkes

Sometimes September C. Fawkes scares people with her enthusiasm for writing and reading. People may say she needs to get a social life. It'd be easier if her fictional one wasn't so interesting.

September C. Fawkes graduated with an English degree with honors from Dixie State University, where she was the managing editor of The Southern Quill literary journal and had the pleasure of writing her thesis on Harry Potter. She was also able to complete an internship in which she wrote promotional pieces for events held in Southern Utah, like the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, and she participated in a creative open mic night, met some lovely people in a writers’ group, and worked as a tutor at the Writing Center. Her college experience, although demanding, was rewarding.She liked it enough to consider getting her M.F.A., and she got accepted into a couple of programs, but decided to pass on it.

Since then, she has had the opportunity to work as an assistant for the New York Times bestselling author David Farland, while on rare occasions critiquing novels or proofreading promotional pieces on the side. Mostly she hides out in her room and writes.