Writing A Nervous Character's Dialogue
| Character Creation | Novel Writing Tips

Writing A Nervous Character's Dialogue 
| Character Creation | Novel Writing Tips

Writing A Nervous Character's Dialogue 
| Character Creation | Novel Writing Tips

Most people who are nervous have triggers and are not ALWAYS nervous.

For example, I have one character, GhoulSpawn, who when nervous, stutters. But only certain things trigger his nervousness, so he doesn't always stutter all the time. His stuttering becomes a queu for the reader to know that something about the situation has changed. The level of his stuttering changes with different triggers.

For example, he is terrified of one character in particular, Unicorn, and his worst stuttering shows up when Unicorn is in the room with him. The dialogue would be moving along normally, then suddenly fall apart, which tells the reader that Unicorn has entered the room, without the need for any narration to say this.

I have Selective Mutism, which manifests in various levels of stuttering to total mutation, depending on the trigger, and I based GhoulSpawn's disability on my own, thus I write it the same way.

GhoulSpawn talking to Quaraun, interupted by Unicorn entering the room, is then written like this...

"I don't care about the colour."

"How can you not care about colour?"

"I'm not crazy like you."

"Well, that's debatable, now isn't it. Most people think you're crazier than I am."

"I am not... I... uhm... I... I..."

GhoulSpawn tried to form the words, but nothing was coming out.

"Now what?"

GhoulSpawn pointed across the room. Quaraun turned to see what he was pointing to.

"Of course. Why didn't I know that?"

"Cat got ya tongue?" Unicorn asked as he walked up to the two Elves.

"You're scaring him."

"By standing here?"

"Yes. He's not crazy."

"Did I miss something?"


~From "GhoulSpawn the Crazed and The Rose Garden of the Pink Necromancer" (Volume 35 of The Quaraun Series)

You see his speaking normally with Quaraun, and you see when he notices Unicorn enter the room, there is a brief moment of him repeating the same word, but being stuck on it, and then his suddenly dropping out of the conversation entirely, and saying nothing at all after that.

Quaraun himself, frequently pauses when he talks. In those instances I write it thus: (This entire scene is 1 character talking, with a 2nd character jumping in at the very end...)

Quaraun had gotten lost in his thoughts and once again began muttering to himself over and over again. While his thoughts were clear and organized, he was only speaking bits and pieces of what he was thinking. Quaraun was troubled by the fact that he was indeed the world’s most powerful wizard, unmatched when it came to spell casting, but was so useless when it came to actually using magic in every day situations. Earlier that day, Bullgaar had overpowered him and raped him, and he should have been able to use his magic to easily escape, but he’d frozen with fear and become easily victimized in spite of his magical skills.

"Powerful wizard,” Quaraun kept saying to himself.

“Very powerful wizard.”


“Never would have considered black magic.”

“I miss my old life.”

“No. Funny. I miss Unicorn.”

“I was good. Now I'm evil. I hate evil. Evil's very bad. I was a good wizard.”

“I knew the code. I lived by the code.”

“Pure and innocent. They needed purity and innocence. It's how he built them.”

“The Lich Lords.”

“So evil.”

“I wasn't evil.”

“I was just very powerful.”

“I’m a coward.”

“I was too powerful.”

“I am a very powerful wizard.”

“That is what I do.”

“Very powerful.”

“He threw me in an oubliette.”

“Lich’s Frost all around.”

“Very powerful wizard."

Bullgaar listened to the crazy wizard as he randomly muttered disconnected words and phrases.

"You keep telling yourself you're a good wizard, huh?" Bullgaar chuckled at the Elf's repeating of words and phrases. "Ya is kind of scatterbrained aren't ya?"

"I am insane."

"Oh. Right. I forgot."

~From "The Journey Begins" (Volume 4 of The Quaraun Series)

In this situation, it is a rape victim, who had just encountered his rapist a few hours later and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and suddenly breaks out into a nervous conversation with himself, that is broken up by pauses, caused by him thinking, but not saying parts outloud. Each line he says is typed on the next line, like a new sentence, because it is a new sentence, as he had paused to think something between. The reader only sees what he says outloud. In reading the full scene, the reader is also made aware that Quaraun does not realize he's talking out loud here, which also tells the reader he's nervous. The fact that moments previous he had been speaking normal, and now when the rapist enters the scene, his speech pattern changes, to this paused, not fully their self conversation, tells the reader, that he is very nervous.

In both cases, the character speaks normally throughout the bulk of the story, but when triggered by something, begins to speak out of character. GhoulSpawn stuttering and then losing the ability to talk all together, and Quaraun suddenly rambling nonsense in half spoken, broken up sentences.

It is easier on the reader, as the characters' odd speech pattern is only displayed in brief passages.

And it is more effective as a character trait & plot point in small doses like this, because it shows the reader exactly WHEN the character becomes nervous, by showing them speaking normally when relaxed, and only developing the stutters or pause, when frightened.

My main character (in 130 novels and 2,000 short stories) is the most powerful wizard/necromancer in the world... and:

  • he faints at the sight of blood
  • is scared of (on phobia levels) bugs, frogs, spiders, birds, pumpkins, worms, fish, snakes, water, lightning, rain, thunder, rivers, fallen trees/logs, and everything else.
  • suffers from social anxiety
  • has panic attacks
  • pisses his pants frequently (out of terror) (only he doesn't wear pants, you know, wizard)
  • often is so scared that he has cataleptic seizures
  • is in possession of a wand that can easily take out any villain he encounters, but is so scared shitless of every villain he encounters that he either freezes, passes out, or runs without ever stopping to think "I'm the most powerful wizard in the world, what the hell am I running from, and besides I've got this wand."
  • other characters joke calling him a "sissy", "wimp", "coward", "pansy", "fainter", and other similar things
  • I've yet to write a story in which he did not faint at least once
  • one novel in the series, EVERY chapter starts with him waking up and not remember where he is or why he fainted
  • he spends an inordinate amount of time obsessively terrified that pumpkins are stalking him and plotting to kill him
  • he is a conspiracy theorist and he can turn anything and everything into a conspiracy, usually believing that someone is out to steal his brain (which in fact is true, there IS a cult in the series that wants to steal his brain, but because of all his other wild conspiracies no one believes him about the one that happens to be true.)

And he has PTSD and Paranoid Schizophrenia, which is portrayed with alarming accuracy and is nothing like the stereotypes usually seen in media/movies/books, this being because I myself have PTSD and Schizophrenia (and also Agoraphobia), so I know what it's like to live with it and I write his emotions, reactions, and fears based largely off my own emotions, reactions, and fears.

>>In action movies, I find it's often the comic relief or sidekick to the villain who might piss his/her pants. But what about the hero? Is it acceptable for them to be just as scared when faced with insurmountable odds?

I see nothing wrong with writing a whimpering coward of a hero, so I see nothing wrong with it.

This should help you decide: 


It details exactly the causes, hows, and whys of fear causing loss of bladder control.

Explains why it's also very rare, and why it's a symptom of serious abuse/trauma/and pure terror levels of fear.

>>You don't pee your pants easily

depends on the person... someone with "nervous bladder disorder" (which I have) actually has to wear adult diapers because they are prone to pissing their pants multiple times a day at even slight upsets...and major terrifying fears can cause the unintended release of both the bladder AND the bowels at the same time.

So, I was over on Reddit, you like I often am, and found this question. And answered it, like I do. However, the answer I initially gave was a simple generic answer. If you want to read my original answer unaltered, simply click on Reddit's embed feature links which Reddit provides for webmasters to be able to post their answers on their websites, while linking back to the original thread on Reddit (if you didn't know Reddit offered and encouraged the use of this feature, look for it in the "share" features underneath every post, comment, and reply on Reddit).

I am answering random questions today about world building, over on Reddit and decided to take my answers from there and expand upon them even further over here. So that's what this page is. Me rambling on about various aspects of world building techniques I use when writing the Quaraun series. The questions I am answering are embedded here. Clicking the link in the embedded question will take you to the original Reddit page where you can see the original answer along with other people's answers. If you wish to comment, you can do so on the Reddit page where a place to do so is provided.

In any case, as with all of my Reddit answers found on my site here, my original post on Reddit is much shorter then the article here.

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