Modes of Communication in Character Development

  • If someone always writes hand written messages and visits people’s homes for dinner, what type of person would you picture?  Would you visualize an older or younger person?
  • If someone is sexting, texting, and consistently on the cell phone, would you picture someone in their 60s or someone under 25?
  • If someone emails, uses cell phones, and IMs, do you see someone you know?  Do you see someone who lives or works in a city, is between 15 and 55, and has consistent access to the internet?
  • If someone is making video calls, visiting blogs, and emailing, what comes to mind?  Do you see a tech savvy adult, who is either a business person or hobbyist of some sort?

Why is that?  Because ways to communicate has been changing and expanding at a quick pace.  This era (2000-2010) has more diversity in communication technology than any other time in history, and some may die out in the next few years.  Different generations and social classes have locked into specific modes of communication. 

While I am obviously going to be making generalizations and playing with stereotypes, I think you will see my point.  This is kind of the 2010 over-generalization primary forms of communication related to age/social class (you can bicker in the comments if you like):

  • Drawings – young children that have been traumatized, architects, fashion designers, and crime scene investigators
  • Walkie-talkies – kids
  • Journals – teen girls
  • Sexting – younger, more risqué people
  • Social (online) games – teens and young adults, mostly males
  • Video Calls – richer, more likely to be young business men
  • vidBlogs – younger, dynamic, high-energy people
  • Text – younger, mostly in cities, hipper
  • Consistently on Cell – normally people younger than 35
  • Instant Messaging – people with consistent access to the web
  • Social Networks – baby boomers to kids
  • Blogs – normally business/special interest people, age independent
  • E-Mail – average / common adults for today 15-55
  • Occasionally on Cell – average / common adults for today 15-55
  • Pagers – In 1990 it was drug dealers, then medical field, then everyone, now back to just medical field
  • Home Phone – non-techie people
  • CBs – On-the-go business communications and hobbyists
  • In Person Visits – family/church oriented people, normally older
  • Hand Written Mail – almost exclusively seniors

I’m sure there are tons of methods that I forgot (and one that I purposefully excluded).  And you may disagree with the specifics of any one, or many, categories.  These are just to form guidelines for this snap-shot of history, April 14, 2010. 

When you introduce a new character, you can give them a very specific feel by describing how they are communicating.  They work effectively if you combined them.  Take these examples:

  • John looked at the incoming text on his phone and slammed the privacy shield closed on his computer’s web cam.  The incoming message read, “OMG!  CANT BLIEVE U TALKD ME N2 THIS.  SHOW NE1 – UR D.E.A.D!”  John smiled as he shuffled over to his bed, flipping through the pictures Amber sent.
  • John shook his friends’ hands as he backed out of the doorway.  “Sorry I have to leave so soon.  I know I don’t come by enough these days.  But I have to get these letters to the post office and Amber will be having supper on soon.”

If you can see the difference, then many of your readers will also.  While communication mode isn’t enough to solely describe your characters, it is a powerful enhancement to other forms of description.

For your writing challenge this week, try to find as many ways as possible to describe John’s leaving a conversation with anonymous friends to give attention to Amber.  Remember to use forms of communication to help define the age and social status of your characters.

About R. Garrett Wilson

I am a member of the Stanislaus World Builders writing group and have participated in the FSFW writing group. I have written one drama that was based on the book of Mark and performed at my church in 2007. My story, Journeyer, is published in Analog Magazine and a novelette, The Bakrra Encounter, in the FSFW 2010 anthology, I Dreamed a Crooked Dream. I also took part in the community novel project, Stanislaus Reads and Writes, and have a chapter in their novel, Ashes in a Teardrop. Beyond writing, I enjoy road trips, photography, woodworking, watching tennis and cycling, and reading.
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  1. Pingback: Calling for help: forms of communication - writing - Help Modes of Communication - R. Garrett Wilson

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