Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Character Voice


I've been reading a book this week that grabbed me right from the start! I'm a sucker for character voice, and the main character's voice was three dimensional. I settled in for a fun ride!

As more characters were being introduced, I noticed they all had terrific voice, BUT they all had the same voice. I couldn't tell them apart.

Why does that matter? Good voice is good, right?

No. The main character was diluted by an echo of sameness from every other character.

BOO! Everyone was energetic, confident, independent, capable, desirable, helpful, dependable, powerful...(yes, the list goes on and nauseatingly on)

Voice comes from the personality of the character. To have diverse voices, we have to have diverse personalities. Here's some food for thought...think of your own characters, look over the personality traits at the bottom of this post, then come back and consider these questions.

Which traits would you circle for each character? 
Then ask:
• How would those traits show up in their actions and body language?
• How would those traits color their dialogue?
• How would those traits influence their attitudes and self-talk?
• How would those traits intensify problems for them?

Voice is essentially part of "who we are." 
Voice is revealed in the characteristics of each cast member in our stories.
Unique characters = Unique voice
Experiences
inventive
curious
creative
novelty
seek stimulation
energetic
methodical
routine
predictable
steady
consistent
cautious

Forethought
impulsive
easy-going
careless
indecisive
spontaneous
efficient
organized
dependable
dutiful
loyal

View Others
friendly
compassionate
cooperative
talkative
social
trusting
helpful
seeks others
watchful
detached
guarded
thoughtful
reserved
careful
wary
self reliant

Emotion
secure
confident
even tempered
hopeful
satisfied
unresponsive
angry
nervous
suspicious
jealous
sensitive
vulnerable

2 comments:

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I agree that, as with characters you meet in life, off the page, your book characters have to have individual voices. I've discovered a great mystery series by Terry Shames where the characters, all in a small Texas town, all manage to have their own voices, and it's part of the pleasure of reading her work.

Stephen Tremp said...

My editor sent me Character Profiles, mainly to give them separate voices and characteristics. It really helped to give them separate identites.