How to Write a Drunk Character: 7+ Tips For Creative Writers

how to write a drunk character

Creating a drunk character in your writing can be tricky, especially if you don’t drink much and aren’t around drunk people much of the time!

I’ve done quite a bit of research into how writers can add realism to their portrayals of people drinking, from the happy, tipsy party guest all the way to the rowdy, drunk guy in the bar, and I’d love to share this knowledge with you here.

Read on to learn more about how to write a drunk character in an accurate way!

How To Write a Drunk Character

These are my top seven tips and tricks for writing story characters who are drunk.

drunk characters in a bar

1. Use Physical Descriptions

OK, first we’ve got to start with why people tend to behave differently when they are drunk.

Alcohol changes how the body and mind work. It affects everything from people’s physical reactions to their emotional state to the types of decisions they make.

For some, the outward signs may be subtle, but overall, the more a person drinks, the greater the negative effects.

Body Language and Movement

One of the most obvious signs of drunkenness is impaired motor control and balance. A drunk character will stumble or sway as they walk, and their movements might be unsteady.

Describe how their steps falter or how they cannot walk in a straight line, how they might bump into furniture or walls or how they have to grab onto surfaces to stay upright.

Exaggerated movements and lack of coordination are other giveaways. A drunk person’s hand movements become wild and unpredictable. They might spill their drink or knock things over. Their fine motor skills disappear and tasks like lighting a cigarette or unbuttoning a shirt become a struggle.

They will also have a slower reaction time, both mentally and physically. This lack of focus will affect their reflexes and their judgement. This may be a useful trait to tap into when considering the effects to fine-motor skills and memory recall.

And don’t forget that when people drink too much, the body will pretty much shut down, leading to severe consequences such as throwing up, passing out, or in extreme cases, alcohol poisoning.

Facial Expressions

The effects of alcohol are written all over the face.

  • Glassy, unfocused eyes are a hallmark of drunkenness, the pupils trying to focus as the world blurs around them.

  • A slack jaw with the mouth hanging open shows loss of muscle control and concentration.

  • Flushed cheeks and exaggerated facial expressions like big smiles or furrowed brows are also giveaways.

  • As inhibitions drop, a character’s underlying emotions will show up on their face. Depending on how much a person has to drink, they may exhibit more or less emotion in contrast to their normal demeanor.

  • A drunk person may be quicker to anger or laughter or sadness or self-pity, bottling up those emotions until a surprising outburst lets them out all at once.

2. Types of Drunk Characters

Think about the type of drunk person you want to write in your story. For many, alcohol may lower inhibitions and make them behave differently than usual, while for others, it may enhance traits so they become more exaggerated than usual. Here are a few common types of drunk story characters:

Flirty Drunk

A flirty drunk uses their charm to flirt with others. They seek attention and may become more confident and bold.

the flirty drunk character
  • Behavior: Touchy, overly friendly, and playful.

  • Speech: Compliments, giggles, and suggestive comments. Their drunken speech often includes repetition, incoherence, and changes in tone. They might stagger their words, blush, or even hiccup while speaking.

  • Example: She leaned in close, whispering sweet words and batting her eyelashes.

Mean Drunk

A mean drunk becomes aggressive and hostile when intoxicated. They get angry – at themselves or others – and this leads to conflicts and arguments.

the mean drunk character
  • Behavior: Irritable, confrontational, and sometimes violent.

  • Speech: Insults, yelling, and threats. Their drunken speech often includes incoherence, repetition, and changes in tone, becoming more aggressive and nonsensical.

  • Example: He shoved his friend, shouting angrily about a long-forgotten grudge.

Happy Drunk

A happy drunk is carefree and joyful when drinking. They spread positive energy and often become the life of the party.

happy drunk characters
  • Behavior: Laughing, dancing, and celebrating.

  • Speech: Their drunken speech often includes jokes and compliments, and they often talk about happy times. But, their speech patterns may become more repetitive and incoherent.

  • Example: She danced on the table, laughing and inviting everyone to join in.

Sentimental Drunk

A sentimental drunk becomes emotional and nostalgic. They reflect on past memories and may express deep feelings towards others in the story.

sentimental drunk characters
  • Behavior: Tearful, hugging, and reminiscing.

  • Speech: Their drunken speech often includes stories from the past, confessions, and expressions of love. It may become more emotional and incoherent, with repetition, changes in tone, and nonsensical speech.

  • Example: He hugged his friend tightly, tearfully recounting their good times during university days long ago.

Sad Drunk

A sad drunk becomes melancholic and introspective. They dwell on their problems and may become withdrawn.

the sad drunk character
  • Behavior: Quiet, tearful, and distant.

  • Speech: Their drunken speech often becomes really sad. It’s marked by self-pity, regret, and remembrances of sad times in their life.

  • Example: She sat alone, staring into her drink, whispering about the time when her best friend stole her boyfriend in high school.

3. Write Realistic Drunk Dialogue

You need to write believable dialogue for a drunken character if you want them to seem realistically drunk to readers. Remember, the more drunk they become, the more exaggerated the outward signs. So be subtle at first, and work your way up.

Here are some tips:

  • Slurred Speech: Show the character’s impaired speech by writing slurred or mispronounced words. Dropping consonants, blending sounds, and lengthening vowels can all convey this slurred quality. “Heyyyy buddy…yer a hic good frien’…alwazz been therrrr fer me…”

Adding physical cues too. Consider including actions like staggering, showing confusion, blushing, and burping. These physical behaviors, combined with speech patterns such as repetition, incoherence, changes in tone, nonsensical speech, and hiccups, can make the character’s drunken state more believable.

  • Word Mashing: Characters may accidentally combine or mash words together in their drunken state, creating new blended words that approximate what they’re trying to say. “Wazzat? Whozere? Oh…s’jusyou Sammy…everythin’zfine…”

  • Ellipses and Hiccups: Using ellipses (…) to trail off sentences conveys how thoughts get lost or forgotten mid-stream. Hiccups and other drunken vocal tics (hic, urp) add realism. “I dunno…I think…maybe we should…hic…get goin’ soon…”

Balancing the description of a drunken character involves making it clear that the character is drunk while keeping the dialogue interesting. Adding physical cues, playing with speech patterns, and having other characters react to the drunken character can reinforce their state.

Also remember the old saying, “In vino veritas.” (In wine, there is truth.) Liquor breaks down inhibitions, and many people tend to become more honest with their thoughts and feeling, revealing information they might not have otherwise. This can be particularly useful when crafting drunken dialogue.

drunk college students in a story

Read The Dialogue Aloud

Read the dialogue out loud to ensure it sounds natural. This helps you catch any awkwardness in the words.

Physical Cues

Incorporate physical cues that indicate a character gets drunk:

  • Swaying Unsteadily: Describe the character’s unsteady movements.

  • Flushed Complexion: Mention visible signs like a red face or excess sweating.

Focus on Sensory Details

Focus on what the character sees and feels, rather than what they think. This helps to immerse the reader in the character’s experience.

  • Visuals: Blurred vision, intense lights, shifting surroundings.

  • Feelings: Light-headedness, a sense of floating or heaviness.

Example: “Her vision blurred, and the lights around her seemed too bright and harsh. She felt like she was floating, her feet barely touching the ground.”

Show, Don’t Tell

Use descriptive language to convey the character’s state instead of simply stating it. This makes the narrative more engaging and believable.

Example: Instead of saying, “He was very drunk,” write, “He stumbled through the door, his vision swimming as he tried to focus.”

Speech Patterns

Experiment with the character’s speech patterns to show their drunkenness, such as smashing two or more words together to emphasize slurred speech:

  • Repetition: Characters may repeat themselves often.

  • Slow Speech: They might speak more slowly or with a thick tongue.

  • More Expletives: They may use more expletives than usual.

  • Drunken Speech: Characters may exhibit repetition, incoherence, and changes in tone.

Example: “You’re… you’re my besht friend… no, really… besht friend…”

Reactions from Others

Show how other characters react to emphasize the drunk character’s state:

  • Struggling to Understand: Other characters might have trouble understanding the slurred speech.

  • Eye-Rolling: They could roll their eyes or show frustration.

Example: “Yeah, sure,” she said, rolling her eyes as he repeated his story for the third time.

4. Writing a Drunk Character in First Person

Writing a drunk character in first person can be tricky! You have to capture the altered state of mind, the distorted perceptions and the impaired judgment that comes with being drunk. You want the reader to feel like they’re getting drunk themselves.

Techniques

Here’s how to write drunk people in the first person perspective.

Altered Perception

One of the key things with writing a drunk character is to portray their altered perception of reality. Alcohol can distort the senses, make the world fuzzy, disorienting and surreal.

As an author you can do this by using descriptive language that conveys a skewed perspective. For example you might describe objects as shifting or blurring, or you might exaggerate one sense and diminish another.

a passed out drunk character

Use Imagery

To really get the reader into the experience, focus on the imagery. Describe the sights, sounds, smells and textures the drunk character encounters, but do it in a way that reflects their state.

For example, you might describe the way the lights blur and dance, or how the room spins even when they’re standing still, or how the music pulses and throbs in their ears.

Spotty Memory

Another thing about being drunk is blackouts or memory lapses. As an author you can use selective memory to reflect this confusion.

You might skip over certain events or details and leave the reader to fill in the gaps. Or, you could have the character recall fragments of memories and create a disjointed narrative.

Examples:

Here are some first person examples:

  1. “The room spun around me, the walls blurring into a kaleidoscope of colors. I reached out to steady myself but my hand grasped at air. Where was I? How did I get here?”

  2. “The music pounded in my ears, a relentless beat that matched the thumping in my head. I squinted against the flashing lights trying to make sense of the blurry shapes in front of me.”

  3. “I woke up on the floor, my mouth dry and my head pounding. Fragments of the night before flickered through my mind – laughter, clinking glasses, a heated argument? I couldn’t be sure. All I knew was I had to get home.”

5. Describing a Drunk Person

Describing a drunk person means that you need to talk about how they look and how they act.

Visual Cues

  • Glossy Eyes: Eyes may appear shiny or unfocused.

  • Slack Jaw: The jaw may hang loosely, showing lack of muscle control.

  • Exaggerated Facial Expressions: Emotions are often displayed more dramatically.

Behavioral Cues

  • Stumbling: Difficulty walking steadily, often unable to move in a straight line and instead stumbling around, likely using the wall or furniture to keep from falling over.

  • Fidgeting: Restlessness and constant movement.

  • Slurring Words: Speech becomes unclear and mumbled.

Focus on the character’s eyes, mouth, and arms to convey their level of intoxication.

Example:

His eyes were glossy, and his jaw hung slack as he stumbled forward, slurring his words.

Physical Characteristics

  • Hiccups: Frequent and uncontrollable hiccups.

  • Green Blush: A slight greenish tinge between the eyes.

  • Flushed Complexion: Reddened skin, especially on the face.

  • Excess Sweat: Forehead, armpits.

  • Body Control: Frequent urination, flatulence, burping and belching.

Visual Distortions

Use descriptions of visual distortions to show intoxication:

  • Pinched Vision: Narrowed or blurry vision.

Example:

She blinked rapidly, her vision pinched and blurry, making it hard to focus.

Impaired Fine Motor Skills

Everyday tasks become challenging:

  • Dropping Objects: Difficulty holding onto items.

  • Clumsy Movements: Awkward and uncoordinated actions.

Example:

He fumbled with his keys, dropping them repeatedly as his hands shook.

drunk characters

6. How to Write a Hungover Character

While showing a character drunk can be fun, it’s just as important to show the aftermath of their drunkenness – the dreaded hangover. Hangovers are a reality for any hard drinker, so it’s important to get it right.

Hangover Symptoms

Physical Symptoms

The morning after a night of heavy drinking your character will be dealing with a whole host of unpleasant physical symptoms.

  • Nausea and vomiting are common, as the body tries to get rid of the remaining toxins. Describe their queasy stomach, pale complexion, sour sweat, and occasional need to run to the bathroom.

  • Pounding headaches and dehydration are also a hangover hallmark. Describe their throbbing temples, dry mouth and desperate need for water or electrolyte drinks.

Behavioral Symptoms

In addition to physical symptoms, hangovers can also manifest in behavioral changes.

  • Poor concentration and inability to focus are common as the character struggles to get through the mental fog and fatigue. Describe their struggle to do simple tasks or follow conversations, their mind wandering.

  • Irritability and mood swings are also hangover behavior. They may snap at loved ones or coworkers.

Techniques

To write a hangover scene, focus on sensory details and descriptions of what happens to the body when completely drunk.

  • Describe their dry, cottony mouth, the way their head pounds with every movement or the waves of nausea that wash over them.

  • Use metaphors and similes to convey the intensity of their discomfort, compare their headache to a jackhammer or their stomach to a stormy sea.

  • Incorporate humor or self-deprecation as characters often look back on their drunkenness with a mix of embarrassment and amusement.

  • Have them make resolutions to never drink again, only to break them in the future.

Examples of Hangover Descriptions

  1. “Sarah’s head felt like it was in a vice, each hangover headache pulse sending shockwaves through her skull. She squinted at the bright morning light, her mouth as dry as the desert aa she fought the urge to vomit.”

  2. “The room spun as Mark tried to focus on the report in front of him. His concentration was shot, his thoughts as fragmented as the memories of last night. He pinched the bridge of his nose, willing the temples to stop pounding.”

  3. “Groaning, Jess rolled over and immediately regretted it as a wave of nausea washed over her. ‘Never again,’ she muttered, pressing a hand to her queasy stomach. But even as she said the words she knew it was a lie – the tequila shots would lure her back for more punishment.”

7. Research Being Drunk & Hungover

Researching drunkenness can help you write more authentic drunk characters. Here are some methods to consider:

Personal Experience

  • Get Drunk Yourself: If possible and safe, experience being drunk firsthand. This can give you valuable insights into how it feels and how you behave. Just don’t overdo it!

Talk To People Who Drink

  • Talk to Drinkers: Speak with people who drink actively to gather their experiences and insights. Ask about how they feel and act when drunk.

  • Social Interactions: Observe how people interact with each other when drunk in real life. Note the differences between angry drunks and happy drunks.

  • Speech Patterns: Pay attention to changes in speech, such as at what point they start slurring their words, and whether they use any repetitive phrases.

  • Behavior Changes: Notice how behavior evolves after a few drinks and how it changes again when they become sober.

  • Feel that Hangover: How does your body feel the day after drinking too much?

How People Act When They Get Sober

Take note of how people react to their previous drunken state once they are finally sober. Some common feelings the day after could include:

  • Embarrassment for what they did and said while drunk.

  • Laughter about the silly things they did or said.

  • Regret for things they did or said.

How to Write a Drunk Character Pin

Putting it All Together

Writing a believable drunk main character requires more than just using stereotypes of drunk behavior and speech. Instead, combine physical cues, behavior, and other techniques to show drunkenness.

Focus on showing your character’s slurred speech, unsteady movements, and emotional swings. Use sensory details to immerse the reader in the character’s state. This will help create a character and a situation that feels real to your readers.

If you want more help with your writing, consider my story coaching services. Whether you’re new or experienced, I can help you bring your characters and stories to life. Click here to learn more!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *