I’ve written this blog post to encourage you to write great character voices. Character dialogue - or monologue if your character is a narrator - takes real skill. But it’s worth developing. I have read a lot of books where it’s hard to tell the difference between the voices of different characters. Even some of my favourite authors sometimes show an inability to create a good range of authentic voices. One always uses long cynical lines for multiple characters across many of his books!
So, how do we, as writers, develop character voices? Here are some suggestions.
1. Live your character. Get into your character’s head and spend some time there. We need to think about how they communicate, and ‘hear’ their individual voices in our head.
2. Their inner thoughts. Speech is reflective of how a person thinks. Is your character nervous or fearful? Reflect it in their communication! Do they have grand ideas? Are they an introvert or an extrovert? Use their thoughts to inform their voice. Caleb Noble and Daniel Harcourt, in the 5fingers stories, are strong leaders, and their words are sometimes pointed and forceful.
3. Range of vocabulary. Do they speak in slang or use business expressions? Perhaps they have a specialist mode that includes legal or financial words. Rachel is a tough but emotionally-complex teenager who has never left her hometown Griffton. So, she speaks in a particular way.
4. Their region. There might be particular words that are used in New Jersey, or Leeds or Brittany. Make sure you use them. Rachel’s dad, Eddie, is from Solihull, so he uses Black Country slang when he’s tired.
5. Long/short sentences. Some characters will use long phrases and others will use short sentences. Use punctuation – commas, colons, semicolons and exclamation marks to help you.
6. Listen to conversations. Take lots of notes. Use real phrases.
And have fun! JRx
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Joshua Raven, novelist. Read about my writing and my life here. And have you discovered 5fingers yet?