Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.
In my previous post, I discussed the concept of voice and gave tips for developing it. However, a writer has more than one voice in a story: the narrator and each character has, or should have, a distinctive voice. Learning to write in a way that gives each character individuality and depth, making each one recognizable to the reader by the way they speak or behave, can make a story come to life. Here are some ideas to help you develop your character’s voice:
1. Listen to the way other people talk. Notice what makes each person sound different—their accent, vocabulary, tone.
2. Tell your story to someone else before you write it down. Know what each character’s role is, and what makes her special.
3. Read what you’ve written out loud. Speak naturally, and use vernacular if appropriate. Make the dialogue sound realistic so your characters will be believable.
4. Read authors who have distinctive voices and analyze what makes each one sound different. If a character lacks depth, sounds flat or boring, see if you can tell what is it that made him appear that way.
5. Write from your heart, and don’t worry about what you should write. Be yourself and your story will sound like you wrote it, not someone else.
6. Avoid using clichés. Those expressions became clichés because people use them all the time; they may get your meaning across, but it will sound like something the reader has heard before.
Alan Rinzler, a respected editor/publisher, has a recent post about voice on his blog, and I recommend taking a look at it (after you read my blog posts and leave friendly comments).
How do you make your characters sound different from each other? Do you try to make your narrative voice “invisible” so the description doesn’t take the reader’s attention away from the story; or do you think the narrator’s voice should be recognizable, too? Does it depend on the POV, type of book, or what?