Giving your characters a voice brings them to life.
All characters have to have their own voice.
Writing dialogue is challenging at the best of times, so knowing the character’s voice before you start writing is a great help.
Getting the character’s dialogue believable is usually about consistency of voice with their thoughts and personality.
So how do you do it?
If you have any little tricks or tips, then share them around!
Talking to a friend of mine a few years ago, he gave me a great piece of advice that has stood me in good stead many times since… he said ‘imagine the voice of someone you know really well and use that…’
It took me a while to really get what he was saying, but I got there in the end…
What worked for me was imagining an existing character from TV or the movies, and using their ‘voice’ to write dialogue for a character I had that was similar to them. This really helped me with the sound of the voice, where to pause, where to stop. When to emphasise, when they’d raise their voice (if ever), the kind of words and phrases they’d use, and those they’d avoid. And because the visualisation was in my head, used as a guide, the basis for the character’s voice remained hidden in the final product: only I could tell who it was based on.
An example, that at once betrays my age and geekery, would be: does the character I want to write for sound like Captain Kirk or Captain Piccard? Each has a distinct way of speaking that shapes their dialogue and how it’d appear on the page.
The more iconic the character you are imagining to inspire your dialogue, the easier it is to hear it when you write, to remain consistent.
As I grew more experienced in writing dialogue, and using it to serve the story, to illuminate the character and to let it do its ‘job’ within the piece I was writing, I moved away from this approach. But I still revert to it when I’m writing the first words-on-paper draft and I haven’t yet got a good handle on a character: I find it really helps.
A character’s voice comes from their background, their upbringing and education, their culture, their experiences that formed their core personality as they found their feet as people and started speaking-up for themselves. All this comes more naturally to me now as I create and get to know the characters that I’m writing with more easily.
But the trick of imagining them as having the voice of a well-known existing character really helped me then, and still comes in handy now.