How to Find Your Character's Voice
Voice is hard. It's one of the major factors that gets critiqued by agents (and your readers). You have your own author voice and personal style but what about your Main Character(s)? Does their voice fit the age and genre? Is their voice different from your main character's voices in your other books.
When thinking about a character's voice, think about their personality, their experiences, their outlook on things, and the story your telling. Fill out a character profile sheet if it'll help you get in their brain.
The way your character thinks should be reflected in how they filter everything they see, hear, feel, smell, and say. They'll react certain ways to various people, emotions, tropes, and plot points that get thrown their way.
Your character's voice will also reflect their background, social status, humor, and nuance. Characters may speak in short or long sentences, big or simple words, with no contractions, with slang, in a tone that reflects their personality, etc.
Gain further understanding from movies, tv shows, and books. Analyze the differences in characters and how you want yours to talk. Take notes to reference or tweak later.
When you think you're ready to nail their voice, try out a few writing exercises to see what fits. Sometimes what comes out in writing is not what you expected (for good or bad). Sometimes it may take a few writing prompts to find your groove.
Check out these prompts below. There are a mix to get a feel for emotional reactions, social interactions, and internalization.
- Through your character's senses, have them internalize their thoughts on the way to a family or friend's house. What obstacles pop up literally and figuratively.
- Write the scene that gave them their ghost, their lie they believe about themselves.
- Write what they imagine is their all is lost, where they lose everything, especially the thing they wanted most, along with the timely realization of what they actually needed, but might be too late to get. Find that emotional depth.
- Write a humorous passage with a friend or love interest. Is it sarcastic or banter-y, does it include inside jokes or a shared opinion on something happening in the story?
- Write a scene with your character venting to you or them writing a journal entry about their inciting incident, the thing that'll propel them into Act 2 and their 'new world'.
- Have your character engage with the worldbuilding. Is there a fantasy/magic system, a beach, a perpetually rainy city, a muggy mosquito infested swamp, a concrete jungle that never ends, a small town they can walk everywhere and know everyone, solitude, etc.
Need help developing your character's personality? Click here to read various methods.
Check out the differences in Middle Grade and Young Adult voices here.
For more helpful tips, check out my YouTube Channel.