Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is It In The Right Voice

As Toni and I write the Lorn Prophecy series, one of the issues that always creeps up is writing each character with an individual voice. This is one problem that I think needs to be addressed when we run through Fated before approving it for the beta-readers. 

We've found it isn't as hard to develop the voices for the main characters, but the secondary or even the pop-in's are not as easy. We tend to have the Djen men talk the same, and the same for the Djen women. See, they talk more formal than you or i would.

But we always seem to figure it out and manage to separate the different characters personalities. That's one thing that's great about having two critique partners that seem to always ask if this would be the way the character would talk or act. But, that's not always the case with every book out there. Not everyone has a critique partner, and especially ones that are that intuitive.

I think this is especially obvious when people try to write in different sexes than their own, or with a huge age gap, such as older people writing as a teenager. 

When I first wrote Fable, I had a difficult time writing Stevie and her friends the way teens talk. In fact, it was a friend of mine who's niece read the first 8 chapters and said it doesn't sound like the kids today. Toni and I decided to research the way teens talk and found a few great sites that we used on a regular basis throughout the manuscript. If you google teen talk you can find several good ones out there. There were some places that we had to wing it though. 

As far as writing in a man's voice, we went to the source, men we know. My husband was pulled in to get the voice of Wood and Colton. Even though we wanted them to not be "a" typical, we still wanted them to think like a man would and react that way, too. 

Then there was Torren. We wanted him to be a bad boy, but smart. I was adamant that he would not sound like a bad "B" rate movie. I think we did okay considering. 

It is tough to find that voice of your character if they are so different than you. What have you found that helps you with the different voices? I know there are even writers who have a whole different set of speech and ideals of a made-up race. What would keep them consistent throughout so it rings true?

Would every race of beings think like us? Probably not, but it still needs to bring the reader in and immerse them in the story. This, again, is where keeping track of everything within the story with outlines helps. Even with character development. When it sounds like a bad movie, it doesn't captivate.

I would love to hear anyone's thoughts on finding the voices of hard characters and what helped you to accomplish that successfully. Leave me a comment and share your ideas. All writers learn from each other, so spread the knowledge. 

Thanks again for all of your support, I always appreciate your comments and


Have a great week all, Lisa


  1. Character voice is one of the hardest skills to develop because of the sheer enormity of linguistics. There's fluid dialogue and then there's character voice. I'm apparently rather adept at the former. An old acquaintance of mine who didn't have time to completely review the first part of the book, The Legion Rises, did make the comment that I had very natural dialogue.

    In terms of differing character voices, the best way to get a good sense of how people speak is to pay attention. When I was in university and during a brief "writing" stint at the local coffee shop, I found myself with light ear phones in but no music playing. And I would sit and look busy, but would in fact listen to conversations. Sometimes I would transcribe them, just to get a feel of how they look in written words (I never saved any of them, since that would surely be a breach of privacy).

    I find making distinct voices to be the hardest thing in writing to accomplish (especially since I have a huge number of characters in my writing universe). I feel like I may have managed it, but I suspect that a large number of my characters sound similar enough that they could not be identified without dialogue tags.

    And don't forget that this extends, in part, to the narrative as well. When you have a point of view character, the way you write that point of view is often slanted towards the voice of that character (and in the case of first person, it WILL be in the voice of that character--making differentiating others's voices more important). It won't be the case in omniscient third, but certainly for close/intimate third.

    For example, a character with a sharp memory and good observational skills will probably be higher in description--he or she is attending to the surroundings--than one who tends to not notice things.

    I have two characters (well, now three, technically) in Shadows who have similar traits and I feel those traits will influence how they talk. They are all sarcastic and are all slightly anti-social. As such, you can imagine they're going to share certain similar communication habits. Short with people, sarcastic humour.

    One is searching for answers--he wants to know who he is. Two has found all the answers and doesn't like what he knows. Three has seen enough and just wants to be left alone.

    Their goals will influence how they communicate with others. One will ask questions, two will seek to fix things and change things. Three will try his best to get out of things.

    Another thing to ties into language is education (and age). How educated a character is makes a difference. You mentioned trying to write young people. And it's true. Young people talk differently than the rest of us. This might be why I keep most of my mains within 5-10 years of my own age. It makes life easier, for sure.

    Busy here at work, might comment more later.

    1. I really enjoyed writing the voices of Stevie, Jack, and Alyssa. It did help that I have raised two kids of my own and when I was with my ex- his three. I remember a lot of their interaction with each other. Also Jack is based on another man's son that I know. At least he reminds me of Jack. Once we got in the swing of it, it wasn't that hard.

      I think writing in a man's voice was harder,and the hardest, a man from a made-up world. Finding Colton's voice sometimes we had to sit and breathe and really think about what he would say and how he would react because it wasn't just his voice but the fact that he was a Warrior. I wanted him to be strong, honorable, and an excellent fighter, but also show his love for Stevie from deep in his soul. It was tough.

      I love a challenge though, and so does Toni. I think we managed to get it out pretty well. I too have been told that my strength is in dialog. Actually my weakness is describing a scene to put a person there. Luckily, that's Toni's strength!

  2. Because I'm exhausted enough to be goofy, I have just one more thing to say (and I'm obviously just kidding around):


    It's in the wrong voice.

    1. Yes, you are slap happy! Get some sleep! Talk to you tomorrow!

  3. Lisa, I love playing with Torren's voice and character. Wait. That sounds a little wrong. LOL! Oh, well, I do like a little bad in the boy.

    I think you and Toni are doing a fine job with your characters. Janet and I will let you know when one of the slips ;)

    1. Yes, good thing we have you two! Thanks for the comment, and yeah, it's been fun digging into Torren's brain and bringing out his character in Fated!