There are moments in my life I wish I could take back. The kind where I opened my mouth and inserted my foot right up to my hip bone. They still haunt me even though it's been years and I'll never see those people again (it's worse for the ones I see all the time, ack).
And sometimes, a verbal slip got me into trouble I would have gotten out of if Id just kept my mouth shut.
Characters can say stupid things too.
It's a lot easier for them to come up with the perfect zinger, or to carefully consider their words before they speak, but come on, who really does that every time in real life?
Letting your characters make verbal gaffes is a fun way to mess up a situation that should have been easy. It's also a great way to show flaws or even a darker side they'd prefer to keep hidden. They might:
- Give away a secret
- Call someone by the wrong name
- Tell the truth instead of lie
- Lie instead of tell the truth
- Say what they think someone wants to hear
Of course, you don't want you character to make a fool of themselves all the time, because then it's hard to take them seriously. Sometimes there's a fine line between ditsy and idiotic. Be wary about letting them slip up too often. (unless, of course, that's the whole point of that character)
They can also be on the receiving end of a gaffe. Bad guys the world over have slipped up and revealed something they shouldn't have, but it also works when the protagonist's friends do it. The wrong comment at the right time might force your protagonist to reexamine something they'd been doing or a belief they'd been firmly entrenched in.
If you need a character's brain to a break so they're not thinking clearly, consider letting them (or someone else) speak out of turn. Having to deal with a verbal slip definitely takes the focus off what they intended to say.
And if you embarrass them enough, they might hold back when they really need to speak up at a critical time later.
Do your characters always say the right thing? Are there any times when a verbal slip would make the scene more interesting?