Secret tip to help your character’s voice

I’m late in posting today. Had family visitors arriving and found myself cleaning the house, making up beds, shopping. You know how it goes. The blog has taken a back seat and I must apologise. I’ve felt guilty all evening and now I’m taking the opportunity to pop into WordPress and have a chat.

Glad I was able to because – I heard a secret today. Psst! A secret. I’ve been given what I think is a great tip and I’m going to share it with my friends. But keep it to yourself. This is a cracking tip for getting your characters to have their own voice when you write a scene: Don’t give them names.

No, not all the way through the book, that would never work. Just while you write a scene that explains who they are. A special scene for you if you like. While you sort out the way they speak.

The thing to do is write the whole scene as if it were a play script, but without the ‘business’ parts. Just write the dialogue. You will have to go back later on to fill it out and put in the ‘beats’ of the scene, of course, but just writing the dialogue gives you an opportunity to make sure each character is an individual.

Especially if you have two characters of the same sex, it is easy to have them sound alike. Not giving them names means you have to work it out by the tone of their voice in your head, by the words they use, and by the length of their phrases. Everyone has small differences in the way they speak.  Those are the things that make your voice individual and your characters need to have that same individuality. If they don’t, if they sound exactly the same as each other, if the reader has to depend on the name of the character to know who it is that is speaking, then the scene will come over as flat.

I think it sounds like a good idea. Let me know how you get on if you try it.

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11 responses to “Secret tip to help your character’s voice

  1. Neat idea, Pat. I’ll certianly try it when I get back to the book on Monday

  2. Ooooh, I like that! Going to give it a try. Thanks, Pat!

  3. I see it….no, I hear it…GREAT IDEA!!

  4. Great suggestion! Thanks. I’ll try it.

  5. Pingback: The Art of Dialogue « the daily creative writer

    • Hi Thank you for the ping back link on your blog. Very kind. I will return the favour. Yours is a much more comprehensive article though!

  6. Cough syrup and vocal training!

    Of course, it is a lovely idea. Another way to improve on this idea is to consider the way friends speak to one another, and then imagine one of those friends speaking to their boss at work. Seeing the different voices in this manner should also help by way of getting the point across; characters use different words, have different vocabularies, share similarities, though they may not take on the world in the same way. Nor should characters necessarily react to events the same way. Okay. I’ll stop blabbing.

    Good advice! Much better than my cough syrup idea. Who needs vocal training, anyway? That’s expensive!

    • Coughscyrup and maybe the odd paracetamol tablet for the headache you get trying to do it.
      And yes, voices in different situations, from different backgrounds. Essential viewing for the writer.
      And I like it when two conversations are actually happening at once. When one person is replying to what he thinks he hears, or wants to hear and the other does this same his end.
      Love those dual conversations. You hear them in coffee shops in shopping malls. Brilliant.

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