What is character voice? To me, it’s the distinctive way a character talks and thinks and moves, the way we know through dialogue alone who the character is without any speech tags to tell us.
When you write multiple works, how can you make sure they don’t all sound exactly the same?
This is actually tough, at least for me. We all have a certain way we speak in a mish-mash of local phrases to go along with body language all our own. It’s easy to write a character in your own “voice”. Writing The Glass Man came out like breathing because I wrote as I would naturally speak. Now, with my new series, the main character is nothing like me in manner or voice.
I’ve discovered a little technique while preparing for the Muskoka Novel Marathon, where I endeavor to write a novel in 3 days to raise money for adult literacy. I needed a way to feel out my main characters before I started the novel, so could know who they were before the clock starts ticking and I begin the story.
It’s simply this. Take your two main characters. Put them in a public place, my favorite is the mall, and have them observe the crowd and interact with each other as they discuss what they see. It always surprises me, the character traits that just sort of naturally appear. A catch phrase that comes out. What attracts them, repels them. A prejudice, views on politics and religion, fashion choices, body language, it all comes out clearly.
No two characters have ever come out the same when I do this. They all end up with their own little quirks, shortcomings and strengths. They speak differently, use different terms of endearment, curses and humor. It’s such a simple process, but it really works.
Try it out and let me know how it turns out. Post me a little paragraph here so I can meet your creations.