Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hearing Voices

Do you hear voices? You should. It is important to hear the voice of each and every character in your story.
            Each character is an individual, and as an individual speaks, thinks, and acts differently from the other characters. After all, that is what gives them individuality, makes them their own person. Otherwise, they would all sound alike, flat and boring. It is up to you as the author and their creator to bring your characters to live and give them substance. In other words, you have the duty to your readers to make your characters sound like real people.
            How do you breathe life into a character? First I would suggest taking note of the people around you, the ones you know and don’t know. Watch them for gestures, facial expressions, favorite words they use frequently. Do they sigh frequently as they talk? Do they have a habit of laughing at times that do not call for laughter? Do they frown a lot or have a twitch? Is there a favorite word or phrase they interject often such as “oh,gosh” or “good gosh a mighty?” Does the person have a quick temper or is he/she a mouse?
            Next get your character profiles for each character and study them. Once you have an idea of your character’s personality and background, you need to figure out how you can reflect the character’s personality, education, social background, birth place, gender, and even job-related way of talking. Have their grammar match education and slang match age and lifestyle.
            Don’t forget dialect. This could reflect the area of the country from which the character comes. Foods they eat can show where they were raised or simply show an idiosyncrasy. Be careful, though, not to overdo dialect. It could cause your reader to stop reading your book.
            Be sure to match all the elements to your character. Body language (yes, it is an unspoken voice), thoughts, and speech should all match. Otherwise you could give your reader the impression your character has multiple personalities!

Faye M. Tollison
Upcoming books:  THE BIBLE MURDERS
                             SARAH'S SECRET
Member of: Sisters In Crime
                   Writers On the Move


Heidiwriter said...

Character voice is a very important element to your writing. We need to strive to make each character sound unique so that even if we don't have an identifying tagline, the reader will know who is speaking. It can be a challenge!

Margaret Fieland said...

Faye, I don't do writeups per-se for my characters, but I do see/hear them in my head -- kind of like a movie. I learn about them by writing. I've also had them take personality tests (Myers-Briggs or Enneagram). I've found it easier to answer the questions for my characters than I do for myself {wry grin}.

I do like using dialect, especially for secondary characters. I'm a native New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan, so those are the voices I tend to hear.

Debbie A Byrne said...

Good ideas!

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Faye, this is something I find very difficult. I shall try to be more disciplined about listening and taking notes this year. Mostly, I suspect, my poor little characters all talk like me. :-(

Karen Cioffi said...

I know I posted a comment here before. I guess the internet gremlins have been at work.

I use my grandkids as examples of movement, character, language, and so forth for my children's stories. Watching people is a great way to create 'alive' characters.

Great advice!

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