Monday, July 9, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 9

The writer's challenge was fun, and I've been busy writing--everything but this blog. It's time to get back to the creating memorable characters series. As a reminder, we're discussing intercultural communication differences. 

Body Language and Slang
If you close your eyes during a meeting, what message are you sending your colleagues? Is that message universal? For a fun 8-question, eye-opening quiz visit

I hope you took a look at the quiz because it makes my point: body language meanings vary from country to country. Misinterpreted body language opens the door to miscommunication. For the fiction writer, this means the opportunity to advance the conflict between your protagonist and antagonist.

Slang suffers the same difficulties. I’m a big fan of British TV. Their slang for many activities is different from the slang in the US, as Harry Potter fans discovered. Slang also changes with the times. For example, in my younger days, the word “pimp” meant a prostitute’s boss. Nowadays pimp means to take something that’s plain and make it stylish and customized, as in "Pimp My Ride." When my son uses slang, I ask for clarification.

So why are body language and slang important?

Communication is sending messages, and there is more to the message than just words. If we misinterpret body language or slang we misunderstand the message.

Add spice to your story and new avenues of conflict by including characters from other cultures. But be sure to give your dialogue and characters authenticity by knowing cultural communication differences. 

Step outside your culture and have some fun.
Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

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