Is it possible to create unique voices in your story if all your characters use simple words and sentences in their dialogues?

I believe that simple dialogues may not allow for the same level of creativity and nuance when it comes to crafting distinct character voices. Characters who all speak in the same simple, straightforward manner can be difficult to differentiate and may lack individuality and depth. Is there a way to give them individuality and depth in other ways? I am trying to see what would be the best way to achieve this without using complex words and sentences in their dialogues.

  • Can I ask why, and in what way, you are limiting your characters to simple dialogue?
    – jtb
    Mar 12 at 3:54

3 Answers 3


You create unique voices by creating unique personalities, unique viewpoints, unique ambitions.

You don't need complex language or different grammar to distinguish a coward from a fearless soldier, a sex-obsessed teen from a reminiscing grandma, a depressed widower from enthusiastic happy newlyweds, a scientific nerd from her beer-drinking carefree brother.

Unique voices can be in what they talk about, their analogies, their attitudes, their ideas (smart and good, or just plain stupid).

Vocabulary doesn't matter that much, make your characters distinct and discernible. You can still give them catch words in simple language; e.g. one says "Cool" a lot.

Aaron stood ahead of the group, on the brink of the canyon, narrowed his eyes, looking across it. He sighed.

"I can't see a way across it, guys. Any ideas?"

Sheila, holding hands with Mark, said, "Bobby can do it. Bobby knows everything."

"I don't know everything, Sheila."

Sheila, looking at Aaron, said "Everything!"

Aaron raised his eyebrows, and looked to Bobby. "Any ideas?"

Bobby joined Aaron at the canyon edge, cautiously looked over it and frowned, then looked across the gap. "See that tree over there? The Oak."

Aaron said, "Sure."

Bobby walked away from the edge, eyes on the ground, and picked up a stone the size of a tennis ball, and hefted it. He approached Mark and Sheila.

"Hey big guy, how far can you throw? Like, a baseball?"

Mark nodded. "Outfield to catcher, for sure."

"Great. I'm going to walk down there, when I wave to you, you throw this stone as far as you can across the canyon. Aim for that oak tree, see it?"

"I can't throw that far, B-Dog."

"I know. Just as far as you can, that'll help me."

Mark nodded, and took the stone and walked to the edge. Bobby trotted 100 yards down the edge of the canyon, and waved to Mark. Mark threw the stone hard. Bobby watched intently as the stone arced high, and fell into the canyon.

He walked back to the group, eyes on the ground, thinking. When he arrived, Aaron spoke.

"What are you trying to figure out?"

Bobby said, "Distance. I know a way. We need to make some things."

Sheila beamed, and punched Mark in the arm; he didn't flinch. "Told you!"

Bobby said, "I have to unravel your sweater though."

Sheila frowned. "Aw."

Mark grinned. "Ooh, snap."

Who's the leader? Aaron. Who's the brains? Bobby. Who's the brawn? Mark, an athlete, he's prone to nicknames and bro-slang. Sheila is the cheerleader. She relates to Bobby like a sibling, and Mark knows him, calls him B dog.

Simple words and sentences are fine; make sure your character personalities and attitudes are distinct, and they stay in character (well, perhaps in extreme stress they step up or chicken out, but outside of such transformational moments).

Keeping language simple is actually a good thing.

  • 1
    +1 for the examples. Even in writing, much can be said non-verbally!
    – jtb
    Mar 12 at 3:41

It's possible but more difficult. There are still grammatical structures that could vary. Complete sentences vs. sentence fragments. Statements vs. questions. Plus whether they use metaphors and what.

You can take care to emphasis their point of view. If two characters are discussing the best way through the mountains, it will be easy to tell apart if they argue, or if one asks and the other explains.


In Stanley G. Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" Wonder Stories, July 1934, Tweel, a strange, somewhat ostrich-like, Martian, only learns a few words in English, yet manages to use them to communicate rather complex ideas to their human companion Dick Jarvis.


So that is an example of a character with minimal vocabulary in a language expressing complex ideas. Similarly a character with minimal vocabulary in a language can show their personality by how they use their few words, as well as by their actions.

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