Finding your character’s voice 10k words in.

Total non-sequitur pic.

Now onto tonight’s post.

Finding your characters voice.

Major problem when the characters sound unauthentic. They sound bland, boring, unrealistic, or simply detached and uninterested. At least that is how the main character in my current WIP/NaNo sounded like, until today. I could not put a finger on what was bothering me about the story. I narrowed it down to two things:

1. The stakes were not high enough. I took care of that.

2. My main character, named Edward (no, not that Edward) woke up and started speaking in his own voice. He didn’t sound very believable or as someone invested in what was going on, but once he manned up I started rooting for him and the words flowed from me to the page.

The voice represents two things: the character’s motivation or why he does what he does and his attitude toward the world around him. Without the proper voice the character feels two-dimensional, a mere description on the page and not the reflection of a living breathing creature.

Hopefully now that I (and he) found said voice things should flow smoothly.

I hope.

So, what is your definition/take on character’s voice(s)?

A bit of musical weirdness this evening, because I am in that kind of mood:

8 comments on “Finding your character’s voice 10k words in.

  1. My characters are normally too drunk, stoned or badly beaten up to talk coherently, so I pick away at the voice until it comes. Sometimes they really hate me for it and refuse to talk altogether. I guess that’s one of the (many) reasons I like torturing them so much…

    Strangely enough, this past week I have discovered a few more quirks that I didn’t expect the characters to have, and they are becoming less charicatures and more solid, with feelings that don’t really have anything to do with plot. They are starting to live on the page, expressing their own minds. Hmmm… I’m gonna have to put them through hell to see how strong they really are.

    Minor note about the pic – I would have used a photograph of Audrey Hepburn or Eve (from Ironside) rather than the chosen actress alongside the accompanying text. True words, but maybe not the best image to accompany them. 🙂


  2. Glad you found your character’s voice.

    As for me, it’s not something I consciously think about. Once I really know my characters, their speech and voice comes out naturally.


  3. Yay for finding voice! I actually can’t start writing on a WIP until I have that down – but then, my novels always start with a character instead of a premise. Plot is what I always have to fight for.


    • @bigwords

      The battering and the bruising comes later. I do put them to the wringer emotionally, if not physically. After all they have to earn their happy endings.


      Neither do I. It usually springs up quickly. I was surprised how one character, who I thought would come out as a domineering mother-figure really turned into a concerned and caring parent. The problem here was that the MC was too quite and passive and didn’t show his true colors early enough (first pager or appearance). I may not consciously look for it but I know it when I see it, or in this case, write it.


      I start with scenes, the characters emerge as I write those scenes. The plot comes from weaving the scenes into coherent wholes. The scenes give me glimpses into their personality which I then try to explore/reveal as the story moves along. They almost always surprise me one way or another, like when a character refused to go along with the clucking mother hen thing and instead I had to tone it down. In fact she turned out to be something of a heroine!


  4. I know this sounds silly, but half the time I find a character’s voice by “casting” them in my head, so they sound like a variation on some part some actor played in the past. For example–Rachel Hurd Wood in Peter Pan I found easy to imagine as this ruthless, clever girl with a mean streak. As far as I know, she’s never played a role like that but I could easily imagine her doing it.


    • I sort of did that, at least the casting, but more for the mannerism and physical description than the actual voice. I always imagined that the actors playing the parts would be good enough to carry the day.


  5. Character’s voice is probably what strikes me first. My characters don’t have a face, a background or a plot yet that they already start knocking things over in my head or cowering in a corner. I know how they communicate and how they react and from there, I find which elements of their past could have brought them to this point and what could constituate their future.
    And if I get a detail wrong, they yell at me or refuse to get on the page. *laughs*


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