Repost: Being Authentic

I first posted this on March 10, 2010, and thought it was worth repeating. I wrote this while working on my second novel, so while that part is a bit outdated, the rest still applies.

Do you ever have random words just pop into your head? Words that you rarely use but make you giggle, or remind you of someone from your past? And do they fly out of your mouth at less-than-convenient times?

They do me.

Since I’m working most of the day these words don’t fly out of my mouth so much as pop into my head, then I choose to type then onto the screen. But I usually express myself the way the thought first came to me because I feel like otherwise I’m not being authentic. Some may think I’m weird, or that I’m using a particular word to be ironic or to get a laugh, when really that’s just the way I think.

I started thinking of this while replying to a comment on recent post. You see, I used the word “smidge.” Spell-check tells me that’s not actually a word, but I KNOW I’ve heard my gramma say it and therefore it will be used. This leads to …


… character development and that ever-elusive voice. I’m working on the edits for After the Fall, and one of the gazillion things on my list of things to fix is making the voices more distinctive. Particularly finding a way to make the characters that are the same age stand out from each other. I have two 17-year olds, two moms, and two 9/10-year olds and right now I wouldn’t pass the “remove the dialogue tags and guess who’s talking” game.

A writer who I follow on Twitter (I forget who) asked people for ideas for her character’s “quirky” word (like the girl in Annie who says “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness.” We once counted how many times she said that through the course of the movie.) And that’s when it first occurred to me that my characters don’t have that. They each have a nervous tic, or a gesture that’s unique to them, but I love writing dialogue and I’m a little surprised I haven’t incorporated this sooner.

Time to hit up a high school game and start taking notes…

So, what odd or quirky (but CLEAN) phrases fly out of your mouth when you least expect it?

About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.


  1. I like the phrase I picked up from the short-lived TV show “Greg the Bunny” – Crayons taste like purple. It’s especially funny to pull that out at the *least* expected moment, like a business presentation.

  2. JES

    Not exactly the same thing, but I *hate* it when I mangle the name of someone I know. This happens at work, especially. After a trip to the coffee machine, I’ll be headed back to my desk, go around the corner of the hallway… and there stands Ken (say). “Hey Roger,” I blurt. And even though I catch it a split-second later, it’s too late to try to, y’know, reshape my mouth to form the right name.

    I guess a habit of blurting wrong names could be considered a dialogue tic. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *