Chapter 4 - Voice, what does your character sound like?

Chapter 4: Voice – What Does Your Character Sound Like?

So, now that you’ve got some ideas about how to write a story about your character, and how to make that character realistic with a rich, full life, let’s move on to something different: voice.

Voice is a term often disputed between writers/academics, but for our purposes we can think of it simply as what the character sounds like. If your character were able to speak aloud, how would her voice sound different from, say, your own voice, or Queen Elizabeth II’s voice, or Harry Potter’s voice, for that matter? You, Queen Elizabeth II and Harry Potter will all ask for dinner differently, will express your joy differently, and say pretty much everything in a different way.

Just like no other person is quite like you, your character should feel like a specific, unique person, too. As you can imagine, writing whilst paying careful attention to a character’s voice can also help make the character be more realistic, too. Try writing your character’s voice to sound exactly how you think it would. What unique turns of phrases, slang or tone would she use? Play around with this.

Voice comes into play in two different elements of writing. The first is in dialogue, when your characters speak to one another. The second is in the first person point of view. If your story is written in the first person (I walked to the park (first person); You walked to the park (second person); She walked to the park (third person)), then your narrator has become a character, and their voice should come through in the writing.

Our own voices also change depending on the situation we’re in. Think about how your voice changes when you’re speaking to a teacher, a parent, a friend or a sibling. You’ll use different words, phrases, expressions and tone. When you’re writing your character, think about the specific situation they’re in, and what sorts of things they would say there that they might not elsewhere.

Using voice can be a lot of fun in your writing. Be playful and experiment. Maybe if you’re stuck with a character or situation, try writing it in a different voice, or try changing the tense or point of view (a narrator telling a story about her eighth birthday in the present tense, at age eight, will tell it in quite a different voice and tone than if she were to tell it in past tense, at age 40).

Exercises #2

  1. Write a short monologue from the perspective of your character.
  2. Write a diary entry from the perspective of your character.
  3. Write a dialogue between two characters. Try writing it without any dialogue tags (he said, she said), and instead try to let each character’s voice show the reader which character is speaking.

Complete and continue