By Kerstin Wolf
Developing a character’s voice can sometimes be difficult but is necessary in every novel. As mentioned in the last blog post, Do’s and Don’t’s of Believable Dialogue, every character needs to have their own distinct voice. Unless all the characters in your novel are emotionless robots that are programmed the same way, each character needs to “sound” different to the reader. Nothing is more confusing than reading a line of dialogue between three or more characters that all sound the same. Things start getting jumbled and soon enough, the reader is completely lost on who is saying what. In order to have good dialogue and strong characters, each character must have their own unique voice.
Understandably, this can be challenging. As the author, you are essentially creating life using only your imagination. The world that your novel explores is completely your own, and every character is of your own creation. Congrats, you’re a parent! Now, as a creator of this world, you need to know everything about your characters. Even the tiniest details of their past could affect their voice. Where they grew up, where they live now, what hardships they faced, their greatest fears, what motivates them, what their personality is, all of these could play a role in your characters voice. Giving each character their own voice isn’t easy, and that’s why I’ve listed a few tips or exercises you may want to try if you’re struggling.
Conduct a character interview to really get inside their head… your head…your character’s head which happens to come from your head. You can’t create their voice if you’ve never met them, so what better way to get to know your characters than to interview them? If you want you can conduct these interviews totally inside your head, just be sure to write down your questions and how your character responds. Where’s the fun in that though? Why not become your character? Truly embody your character and behave as if you are them! Not only is it fun and you get to practice your acting skills, but it may help your character to become more real to you. Now, if acting isn’t your thing, but you don’t want to just interview your character in your head, try a combination of the two. Imagine your character and what they’re doing in your head, but respond aloud in their voice. This is my favorite method to further develop my characters and strengthen their voices. Do my next door neighbors probably think I have a few screws loose? Yes. But I don’t care so long it helps improve my writing!
Change the Environment
If your characters’ voices still aren’t coming very easily to you, try the old switch up method! Completely change their environment and see what happens. Is the world that they live in an icy tundra? Try dropping them in the desert. Write a short side story where they are all suddenly transported somewhere totally different. How do they react? This is generally my cure-all method. Changing the environment or situation is great way to get to know your characters better which always helps with creating their voices.
Become Your Character
Perhaps try being your character for an hour. Now, this doesn’t mean do anything dangerous or harmful in anyway. Maybe your character loves knitting. Learn how to knit or scroll through knitting patterns online and react like your character would. Does you character despise knitting hats but loves socks? What would your character say if they came across a zebra hat pattern? Have fun with it! Be creative and relax. A little bit of practice, and your character will have their own voice before you know it!
Kerstin is an intern with Holloway Literary. Follow her on Twitter @Kerstin_Wolf.