AJ bolted from the chair, banged his fist on the top of the old oak desk and glared at Duncan. “You’ve no right! Just who the f#$% do you think you are? You aren’t even part of this family, you back-stabbing bastard. And speaking of which, where’s your whore?” AJ slammed his fist down again, making the penholder bounce and topple. Pens and pencils spilled off the front of the desk.
In rapt fascination, Tucker watched Duncan flinch at AJ’s outburst. It was a spectacular show of pique, but it wasn’t getting them anywhere. Whooping Duncan’s ass might actually be fun, but it was counterproductive. Tucker wanted the man gone and the easiest way to do that was to make it clear there was nothing else for him here now that Granddad was gone. Although maybe intimidation would keep Duncan from contesting the will.
Jumping out of his chair, Dad made a grab for the pens. “Damn it, AJ, sit your ass down and stop the hollerin’. Just because Duncan’s an a@#$%^e doesn’t mean you have to be.”
“F#$% you, Jeff.” Duncan turned his glare from Micah to Dad, but the statement had very little heat behind it. He sighed, some of the tension leaving his shoulders. He looked tired too.
Standing from the fireplace hearth, Micah smiled and helped Dad pick up the mess AJ had made.
“But, Daddy—” AJ started.
“Don’t but Daddy me.” Dad rose from picking up a pen and pointed it at AJ, ignoring Duncan altogether. “Sit!”
excerpt from His Convenient Husband by JL Langley
The above excerpt is 100% accurate. And an adequate piece of characterization in my opinion. How so? Well, what do you now know about AJ?
The use of “daddy” tells me immediately that he’s southern, a good ole boy. The fact that he tries to explain himself to his father tells me he’s respectful of his father and cares what he thinks. AJ is, in fact, a cowboy and I think this comes through in just this little excerpt.
Language and how it’s used really tells us a lot about a character. The use of the word “daddy” by another adult is very common where I’m from. While most children north of the Mason-Dixon line stop calling their fathers, “daddy”, around the age of seven or so, in the South it remains a term of endearment throughout life. Not to say all southerners use this but a lot do. To this day I call my father “daddy”. My husband calls his father “daddy”. And until the day my grandfather died, my Daddy called the man “daddy.” Likewise, a lot of people call their mothers, “mama”. It’s also not uncommon for siblings to call one another “bubba” or “sissy”.
So next time you pick up a western or modern western, pay attention to how the characters talk. It can really give you a clue about that character’s personality. Just one word, even though it is a common word, can give you insight into a character. Would you ever see a New York aristocrat calling their father “daddy”? Or how about a British character? Language, even the same language, can be a very regional thing, but when used properly it can be a real asset to a story.