Friday, June 3

Do Your Characters Sound Like Androids?

Today I decided to blog about one of my biggest pet peeves. Characters that don't sound human. How many "Star Trek: The Next Generation" fans do we have out there? It's one of my favorite shows. Anybody know about Commander Data? Data is an android who strives to be human. Besides the fact that he looks artificial and has no emotions, another thing that separates him from humans is his speech. He's incapable of using contractions. Every time I read dialogue and the characters don't use contractions, they come off sounding like him in my head. They sound like androids, with no emotions. But, maybe that's just me.

Strangely enough, I'm guilty of this myself. Although my characters are saying can't, don't, and I'm in my head, I often find my fingers automatically typing cannot,do not and I am. Then I go back during revisions and change it.

I'm sure there are dozens of writers who do this on purpose for various reasons. I just don't know what they are.

What about you? Do your characters use contractions? If not, why? What pet peeves do you have?


  1. In the WIP I just started a few days ago, the dragons don't use contractions. Something about them simply won't allow it. They're very formal creatures, I think is the reasoning behind it. I've never noticed them sounding like Data though. :)

  2. Tory
    Good point. Your characters are dragons. Like Data, they can't use contractions. I'm talking about normal human characters. Something about a normal human not using contractions makes them sound artificial.

  3. I agree with you on that, Shawn, and I occasionally catch myself not using them as well. Don't know where it comes from, but I've judged enough contests to know we're not the only ones.

  4. I use contractions. Without them the characters seem to loose personality or take on a very distinctive one. Like someone learning English. Pronouncing every letter. I have a character that's teaching himself to use them to better relate to the teenagers in his clan. He's over two hundred years old. :-))

  5. In My Killer My Love, Mykhael did not use contractions until he was acclimated to being in the 21st century. I will change contractions/no contractions depending on the situation.
    Doing edits on something I wrote a while back and OMG NO contractions - what a bore!

  6. Liz, I'm part of a couple of crit groups and I've seen it more times than I can count. I can understand if there's a reason, but a lot of the crits I do are contemporary romance and I don't think it's intentional.

    @Mary: Sounds like an interesting story.

    @Mona:I agree. I re-read my first mauscript and found the same thing. No contractions. I wanted to cringe when I read it.

  7. My characters use contractions, although I often do not when I speak (annd write).

  8. Great post. And just for the record
    ST:TNG is one of my all-time favorite shows.

    I think reading your dialogue out loud is a great way to catch those contraction glitches.

  9. I see this all the time in new writers. And it astounds me - you don't talk like that, so why would your characters?