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3 Tips to Creating Your Character’s Voice

By: F. Lewis

Writing a fictional book with a plot seems like an easy task at first, but the further you get into writing, the harder it gets. One of the hardest things to figure out in your story is the voices of your characters.

You want the voices of your characters to be as strong and natural sounding as possible. Without a clear image of who your characters are, though, it can be hard to keep consistent, definitive voices for them.

To help anyone who’s trying to write and having a hard time, I have provided a few tips on how to develop your character, and thus, their voice.

Tip #1: Create a Backstory

This tip may seem obvious, but many people don’t come up with a backstory until further in their writing. There’s nothing wrong with creating a backstory later, but making even a basic backstory early can make it easier to write in your character’s voice. You also won’t have to go back and change as much. Ask yourself questions like: 

Do they have siblings?

What are their hobbies?

Where did they grow up?

And so on.

These questions help give your character an image. The reader doesn’t have to, and probably won’t know any of these details, but knowing these answers gives you an outline of the character.. It helps you figure out how the character will react to the external factors in your story.

Tip #2: Develop Thoughts and Inner-dialogues

Pick up any book and you’ll see that there is at least one thought from the main character somewhere in it. Every character has some sort of thought process, and developing one helps you figure out how they view and process the world. This is why a backstory is important; it influences their thought process and reactions (i.e. traumatic experience = guarded reactions to situations similar to experience).  Your reader will never have the thought process directly stated to them, but having an established thought process will help them formulate how the character thinks from the character’s reactions.

Once again, developing a thought process early helps you keep their voice consistent, which means less editing later.

Tip #3 : Dialogue

This one is probably the hardest to accomplish out of all of the tips. You want to give your character a natural sounding voice throughout the story. To do this, you must fully know some things about your character that I think are important.

What time period is the story set in?

How old is your character?

Where does the character live?

These can all influence how your character speaks. To keep your character’s voice as natural sounding as possible, you want your character’s dialect to match the setting and age group they belong to. A character’s voice can become weak, resulting in it sounding less realistic if you fail to keep the thought process and personality in their speech.

If you follow these three steps, you should have a well-rounded character with a strong, defined voice. If you want to practice these tips, you can try the following exercises:

  • Interview your characters and write their responses to your questions
  • Observe people and imagine what they’re thinking
  • Listen to conversations between people of varying ages and note their speech patterns

Good luck with your new character and remember:

“ Character is both formed and revealed by how one deals with everyday situations as well as extraordinary pressures and temptations. Like a well-made tower, character is built stone by stone, decision by decision.”  – Michael Josephson

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