Character Voices: How to Write People Using Voice | now romance (2023)

When writing novels, there are at least three ways to create character voices. The first is storytelling through points of view.(NarrativeVoice).The words a narrator uses create elements likeStyle,AboutEton. The second form is written dialogue, which shows the content and manner of speaking of the characters. The third concerns the perspectives of other characters when describing a character's voice. Check out these tips for making a character's voice memorable:

1. Examine the voices of characters in literature

Classical literature and modern genre literature are full of lively and interesting voices. Compare the voices of these first-person narrators, written over a hundred years apart:

“Lord knows I did my best to learn the ways of this world, I even had premonitions that we might be glorious; but after all that's happened, intuitions are no longer easy. I mean - what the hell is this life?O?“ (S. 1)
– DBC-Pierre,little god vernon2003

"My sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than I was and gained a good reputation with her and her neighbors for raising me 'by hand'." At the time, I had to find out for myself what that expression was. I meant and know that she has a hard, heavy hand and is very used to putting it on her husband and I assumed Joe Gargery and I had our hands up 8)
-Charles Dickens,High expectations,1861

Character Voice Examples: Vernon God Little vs. Philip “Pip” Pirrip

These twonarrative voicesare completely different.

Pierre's narrator, Vernon Little, has a pessimistic, world-weary voice typical of a disaffected teenager. Vernon uses profanity liberally throughout the book, and his remarks about others are often honest but sarcastic or cruel.

Dickens' protagonist Pip, on the other hand, has a balanced and slightly funny voice. It's a sensitive, intelligent voice that reflects an awareness of life's ironies (such as his sister's boasting of having "lifted him up with his hand" could also refer to her tendency to be Pip and her husband miss a spanking) .

When you read a story and athe character's narrationgrab it, stop and dissect it a bit. What makes this voice interesting? Is Smart Moody? Optimistic? pungent? Nostalgic? What words or phrases create this effect?

Character Voices: How to Write People Using Voice | now romance (1)

2. Be creative in describing how the characters' voices sound

The way a character's voice sounds can express many things: their health (a sick person may have a softer, deeper, or weaker voice than normal), age, mood, emotions, and more.

To create a vivid sense of the spoken voice, use:

  • Illustrative comparisons:What would you compare a character's voice to?Does a character's voice sound like a warm autumn wind? Or are his sentences erratic and timid, moving like a nervous, watchful bird?
  • History and experience: How might a character's backstory affect their voice?For example, a singer who has used poor technique all his life may have a hoarse croak. A character who has suffered immensely can carry this sadness in the tone of his voice.
  • contradiction:Sometimes a character's voice is completely different than expected. For example, the muscular bodybuilder may have a high-pitched (or highly intelligent) voice.

Examples of creative language descriptions

Read these examples describing the voices of the characters:

The woman looked up. First on guitar and then on Milkman.
"What word is this?" Her voice was light but hard.” (p. 36)
–Toni Morrison,Lied Salomos, 1977

"...he stopped to stretch, pick up the phone from the table and say 'Woodrow'. Or maybe 'Woodrow here'." And he certainly barked his name a bit, he sure had that memory that his voice sounded like someone else's and he sounded cocky: "Woodrow here", his own perfectly decent name but without the understatement of his Sandy nickname, and snapped like he hated it because the High Commissioner's usual prayer meeting was supposed to start in thirty minutes..."
– John leCarré,the eternal gardener, 2001

everyone creates onedistinct andHumorwhile these character voices reflect the current situation.

In the first, the narrator is Pilate, an aunt that the character Milkman has never met before, due to a falling out between her and Milkman's father. Her friend Guitar takes Milkman to visit Pilate. Morrison's simple description of the voice ("light but low") suggests complexity and experience. Pilate's voice suggests that she is capable of lightness and charm, but also has a dark and "royal" quality.

John leCarré's second character voice example reveals Woodrow's irritability when he receives a phone call while he is busy with an upcoming meeting. The words describing his voice (“flagged” and “false”) suggest that he is a man of authority (he can afford to be rude). The description clearly indicates his abrupt and irritable mood at that moment.

3. Let the dialogue reveal the characters' voices

The character's voice is a combination of elements, including description and dialogue.Make sure you write effective dialogue.that develops its characters and their personalities.

How do you write dialogue that conveys the characters' voices? spy and listen

One ofbest ways to improve your dialogueit's listening to the way people talk. Go out in public and ride buses, sit in cafes and listen. Write down snippets of conversation. It doesn't matter if your own book is set in a different place or time; It's useful to just feel the rhythm of people's speech, the way they speak (and what it reveals about them). observationErathey also talk about it and think about what it says about them.

Avoid phonetic accents and dialects that may sound stereotyped

Accents and dialects also tell readers a little bit about the background of the characters. YetBe sure to spell dialects or accents phonetically. If exaggerated, it can be read as stereotype.

There is often complex politics involved (for example, when a writer is privileged or empowered to re-create the language of the dispossessed or voiceless). When in doubt, ask a character to describe someone else's accent - how weird it is or how difficult it is to understand. After that, write the accented character's speech normally.

If your character is from an area with a strong dialect, it's best to only play a few vocabulary words or a speech pattern or two. Although some authors have managed to use dialects successfully, it is very difficult to do so.

One way to create believable "foreign" voices in a story is to bridge the grammatical errors that speakers of that region most often make. For example, first-time German speakers often struggle with the "th" sounds in English because German doesn't use them.

Create character voices using sentence structure

Sentence structure also differentiates how people speak. A character can speak in short, short sentences or in long, flowery sentences. You can experiment with scoring;maybe a character's speech sounds very strangewhile another always seems to be calling something.

Character Voices: How to Write People Using Voice | now romance (2)

4. Separate "Character Voice" from "Author Voice"

Your voice as a writer evolves over time, reflecting your own ideas, attitudes and concerns. The style you like to write. Whether you prefer lengthy, lyrical descriptions of the natural environment or succinct, witty anecdotal observations.

To truly create a character's believable voice, however, it must be its own distinctive entity.

Create a diagram or blueprint of your character. [You can do this in the Character section of our story brainstorming tool.] Instead of creating a voice that mirrors your own, you can be more intentional. Questions:

  • What is this character's worldview? How does that show in her voice?
  • Are they polite and well behaved or rude and boorish? Do they swear a lot or not swear at all?
  • What are the themes and passions that concern you? How can the narrative or dialogue show this from time to time?

5. Develop your characters' voices

Sometimes authors speak of characters who "take over" a book and make writing easier for the author or take the story in an unexpected direction. This usually happens when characters have strong, specific, well-developed voices.

To understand and develop your character's voice, you need to know him.What is your character's plot?? Where do they start and where will they (probably) end?

There are a number of things you can do to develop character voices:

  • try some exercisesAsk questions about your character. You can complete theseexercises in our guide,how to write real charactersto practice
  • Think about your character's backgroundincluding where your character is from, what kind of education your character has, and your character's age and gender. All these things affect how we express ourselves.
  • If you're still having trouble, it might be helpful to try and speak as loud as your character.Think about the character's mannerismsand work to get into the character's mindset as you would if you were an actor. This can help you relax into your character's voice on the printed page.

Get constructive feedback on your character's narration or speaking voice.Join Novel now for constructive feedback and story planning tools.

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  • How to write Character Development: The Phantom of Anil
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  • What is literary fiction? How to develop a literary voice
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