January 4, 2021

Characters Giving Speeches

 Susan Reichert                 @swmeditor

As writers, we normally do not think in terms of anything but fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, memoirs, and short stories.

But in listening to the news last night, they replayed a few lines from a speech from a politician and I decided as writers we probably do not think of writing speeches. But some people make good money writing speeches for politicians and senior level executives both in government and in the private sector.

Did you know they also hire speech writers to write for weddings and all kinds of social occasions?

The speechwriter will work with the person they are writing the speech for to determine the theme, points to cover, the message the person wants to get across and what position he wants to take.

Executive speechwriter Anthony Trendl writes, “Speechwriters specialize in a kind of writing that merges marketing, theater, public relations, sales, education and politics all in one presentation.”

So now we know those speeches we here are written to get us on the side of the speech giver!

As writers we are used to getting comments, good or bad…in other words criticism, on our writing so we will not be surprised that this also happens in speechwriting. Each draft you write will go through this procedure until you have it just the way the person wants it.

Writing a speech for someone is like writing a speech for a character in a fiction novel. The direction you start the story in the character often will go a different way. It is the same way with the person you are writing the speech for. What they think they want will turn out to go in a different direction after a draft or two.

You also must work with tight deadlines. Well, authors work with deadlines when they are writing a novel for their publishers. So, this want be a problem for most writers.

One of the things a speechwriter must know up front when writing speeches for other people, they must be able to accept anonymity. A speechwriter is like a ghostwriter. They do not officially get acknowledgement.

We all remember John F. Kennedy’s words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Who should get the credit? John F. Kennedy or Ted Sorensen (the speechwriter) or to both?

Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Duties of American Citizenship” one of the 35 greatest speeches in history as is Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches.

There is a speechwriter’s guild, “The UK Speechwriters’ Guild” for professional writers who specialize in writing speeches. From what I can find, speechwriters do not usually have specific training in the area and/or the field in which the speech is written for. Oh, and most speechwriters do not have specific training in the writing craft, at least not that I have been able to find. Check with the Guild.

It helps if you are a speechwriter to enjoy research. A great deal must be done on the topic for which the speech is being written. Many authors know what it is to do research when writing their books.

If you are an outliner you will waltz through writing the framework for the speech. Remember what we have been told…know your audience…who are you going to market to? Same for a speechwriter.

Well, who knows, with all the experience writers have it might be fun to offer our services to writing a speech?

Do you think as a writer you would like to write a speech? You might decide you do not want to do it for a living, but you might enjoy writing a speech for a character in your book.

What are your thoughts? The book you are writing now, any possible chance you might have a character in the book you could write a speech for? 

Susan Reichert is the founder of Southern Author Services and Editor of Suite T. Prior to this was the co-publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine, a national magazine for authors and readers. 

She is the author of God’s Prayer Power and Storms in Life, numerous magazine articles, and in 9 anthology books. Speaker at writing conferences, seminars, libraries, and President of Collierville Christian Writers Group (CCWriters Group). 

Reichert discovered one of her life’s purposes when she began to write. “First, it was short stories as a child and some Saturday afternoons you could find Susan, her sister and friends acting out the stories. “My first novel I wrote, the manuscript was lost in a move. Now I write using a computer.”

Susan lives in Tennessee with her husband. They have four grown daughters with their own families.

You can visit Susan at; https:susanreichert.blogspot.com;


  1. Happy New Year, Susan!

    This is an interesting topic. I don't have any characters making speeches in my WIP, but one never knows. I think it would be a fun exercise to write a speech just to understand the mechanics of it.

  2. Hi Kay. I think that is a good idea for an exercise...should be a lot of fun to figure out in a book, where and when a character could make a speech. Let us know how it goes.

  3. I enjoyed this...not sure I'd want to be a speechwriter...but I agree with Kay.

    1. Hi Patricia, thank you for your comment. Although making speeches would be a little more difficult putting it in a book for a character could be a lot of fun.

  4. Thank you, Susan, for the mention. My friend Ane Mulligan at American Christian Fiction Writers alerted our chapter.

    I agree completely. Clients who have hired me to write speeches for their movies and books. A good, well-read fiction writer is well-designed to do this. Your tips are spot-on.

    In fact, fiction is what led me into speechwriting. I've a BS in English. My focus was creative writing and the American Romantics.

    It is more than speeches within the story. Dialogue, like a speech, sounds best when it sounds like a real character. Bad speeches are sometimes because the speechwriter trying too hard. Bad dialogue is like that, filled with cliché regional phrases, PhD-level sentence construction, or using words no human being uses in conversation. We aren't writing to prove we are smart.

    Of course, if your character is giving a speech, it needs to come across as such without sounding too constructed.

    It works both ways: Some of the greatest speeches use literature. Peggy Noonan, through President Reagan, quoted poetry when the President spoke to our nation about the Challenger disaster. MLK often used classic literature in his speeches. Sermons (a type of speech) use fiction techniques to build drama.

    "The First Time You Die," the short story I just published - - is all dialogue. One speaker. No setting. For it to work, the reader needs to get it as one piece, in one sitting, as if you got stuck on a train with the guy talking thirty minutes. It isn't a speech but my experience as a speechwriter feeds into my approach.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you Anthony Trendl for dropping by. I so appreciate your comments. I just visited your page on Amazon, and saw your book, "The First Time You Die". Most intriguing cover.Thank you for sharing.