How many times have you heard, all the characters sound the same? Probably more than once. One of my exercises the past few months is reading reviews on Amazon. I don’t bother reading the four and five stars. They don’t tell me what I want to know: what a story lacks.
One of the pet peeves of readers I see often is lack of distinct character voice. One reviewer went as far as to give an example of how characters can make themselves individuals and sound more distinct.
Using his example as a guide, I created my own example:
If I stubbed my toe, I’d say damn. If my teenage daughter did the same, she’d say crap. We are different generations—which certainly sets us apart—but we are also different people who grew up in different neighbourhoods.
Quiz – Can you identify the television characters by these comments?
These characters said these words repeatedly. The answers are below.
- “Holy Toledo.”
I thought about how I could use this idea in my own stories, particular my fantasy novels that are home to dozens of characters. What would Bronwyn say in a given situation compared to what Alaura would?
I decided to make a chart for the four main characters starring in Scattered Stones. I know them well, so I have a strong idea of what each would say. By creating the chart, I can consistently use their words when they are thinking or speaking.
Here’s a Sample
Bronwyn Darrow: Rude, considerate, in other words, orc’s curse, I’m sorry
- That was rude.
- He is a considerate man.
- In other words, you should come with me.
- Ah! The orc’s curse!
- I’m sorry for not believing you.
Alaura of Niamh: Impolite, compassionate, in other words, goodness, I apologise
- That was impolite.
- He is a compassionate man.
- In other words, you come with me.
- Goodness! Hold on.
- I apologise for doubting you.
Tam Mulryan: Offensive, concerned, she means, grunts, accept my apologies
- It’s offensive.
- He’s a respectful man.
- She means, you’re coming with me.
- He grunted, but otherwise remained silent.
- Please, accept my apologies.
Kellyn Mulryan: Crude, kind, to be blunt (more like), dingleberry/consummated idiot/jerk, sorry
- That’s crude.
- He’s a kind man.
- To be blunt, you’re coming with me. (More like, get your arse over here.)
- Of all the dingleberries!
- “Sorry,” she said, mumbling under breath, “Not like you didn’t deserve it.”
Have you deliberately made a list of sayings to give characters their distinct voice? Or does this come naturally in your story?
Answers to the Quiz
- “Aaaay,” said Fonzie. (Happy Days)
- “Holy Toledo,” said Corporal Klinger. (M*A*S*H)
- “Fascinating,” said Spock (Star Trek)