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
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders
                              Sarah’s Secret
Member of: Sisters in Crime
                    Writers on the Move


Anne Duguid Knol said...

This is something I find very difficult Faye. Too many repetitive tags can be boring too. Finding the balance is a real problem for me.

Magdalena Ball said...

Faye, good characterisation is one of the most critical aspects of any novel and your suggestions for improving the 'voice' are excellent. I suspect most novelists are people watchers - I'm always on the look-out for quirks.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Observation is a great tool for finding voice.

Karen Cioffi said...

Faye, useful information on creating characters and giving them believable voices. Observation is a great tool for making a character multi-dimensional.

Faye Tollison said...

Things which are difficult for you (us) are the things we need to work on. I like to think of them as challenges, and I do love challenges. I don't win them all, but I know I gave it my best. It makes you stronger and a better writer.

Faye Tollison said...

So true, Magdalena. I'm a people-watcher also. Fascinating the things you see and learn when you watch people. It can really get the creative juices flowing.

Faye Tollison said...

Yes, it is, Mary Jo. Writing has made me much more observant than I used to be. I've found it to be quite fascinating.

Faye Tollison said...

It certainly is, Karen, and a multi-dimensional character is a much more interesting and believable character. An interesting character can bring your reader back for more.

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