Creating charactersWriting basics

How To Find Your Character Or Narrator’s Voice

How does your character_narrator sound_ - Write into the Woods

When people ask to join the WITW Facebook group, I ask them three questions, one of which is all about what’s holding them back right now.
Rather than waiting until I have all the big goodies ready for you, I thought I’d start addressing these issues right now on the blog.
Because, why wait? We all want to write now!

 

Some people find it easy to put themselves in their character’s or narrator’s body and mind and start writing as if they were them.
Other people, not so much.
Even those who usually find it easy can be stumped when they find they have a character on their hands who is just so different from them.
If you’re struggling getting into the mind and voice of your character, this is for you.

(If your narrator is you, you can read all about finding your author voice right here.)

If you don’t hear your character’s voice in your head while you’re writing your story, or thinking about your story, then they might need a little more development.
A character, to their writer, should be a real, solid person. They should have the power to take over the story, and, after a while of getting into your writing, their voice should come easy.

So the question of finding your character’s voice isn’t necessarily about finding simple tricks to start writing. It’s about developing your characters.

 

The importance of your character’s voice

Your characters are potentially the most important part of your story.
Most people have read a book where the plot and/or writing was weak, but you just couldn’t put it down because the characters gripped you.

Your characters can carry your story, inform your plot and steal your readers’ hearts.

That’s why your character’s development and voice is so important.
If your cast falls flat, it doesn’t matter how great your plot is, your reader likely won’t care what happens to them.

And if your reader doesn’t care whether your character lives or dies, is happy or miserable, they might not finish the book.
I mean, they probably will because some readers are incredibly polite and find it difficult to put down a book once they’ve started reading. But they won’t buy your next book.

Your character’s voice isn’t just about who they are and how they might respond (do they make jokes all the time? Are they sarcastic? Are they witty? Are they quiet and thoughtful?).
It’s also about their dialect and their accent.
Do they shorten their sentences? Do they use slang?

There’ll be more on dialogue at a later date, but in the meantime, think about how you talk in real life. Listen to how other people talk. Now, think about how your characters might talk out loud.

 

How to develop your character and their voice

If your character’s voice doesn’t come naturally as you’re writing, then it’s time to sit back and have a rethink.
Don’t panic, you just need to get to know your character better.

The best way of developing your character while getting to know their voice is to talk to them.

Now, I understand that not everyone is comfortable talking to themselves in this way (even the dog gives me strange looks sometimes ).
Do whatever you’re comfortable with. Daydream, talk out loud, write it down, whatever works for you.

If you don’t want to chat to your character, try getting one of your other characters in conversation with them. That way you learn about both of them in one step.

Try putting the characters together in different scenes with different obstacles and play around with how they react. See what comes naturally to them.
Or simply have your characters introducing themselves to each other. This is one of my favourite ways of discovering my characters’ backstories.
Your characters might surprise you with what they come out with.

According to writer groups and Google, one of the most popular ways of developing a character in this way is to interview them.

Have you ever read/watched Interview With A Vampire?
You can really have fun with this.
Write out your questions, probe your character’s backstory and what their opinions are, and then get into the mind of your character and write out the answers.
Allow yourself to get lost in your character.

Don’t forget to leave the interview open. Allow your character to ask questions, if that’s what they would do. Give yourself space to ask them follow up questions and bounce off their answers.

 

Getting to know your characters should be fun and full of surprises, and it can be a great way to find your plot, subplots and add some real depth to your stories.

So experiment, put your characters into strange and wonderful situations and be open to whatever they might tell you.

 

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