We’re a full three months into the challenge! Now is a good time to revisit the issue of your narrative voice. Remember the exercise we did several weeks ago where you decided how you wanted to come across to your readers? Remember showing your work to some friends to get their opinions?
Take the most recent three paragraphs you’ve written and repeat that exercise this week. Don’t look for your best paragraphs or a section you really like; use the most recent three. Show those paragraphs to a couple of friends and ask them which narrative persona they think describes the tone:
A. Authority figure (like a doctor or teacher)
B. Guide (like a coach or workshop leader)
C. Regular person with advice
D. Reflection of themselves (they can see themselves in your experiences and empathize with what you’re saying)
Compare their responses to the feedback you received at the beginning of the project. Are they the same, or at least similar? If so, great! You’re probably maintaining a consistent tone throughout your book. Keep doing what you’re doing.
If the responses are not similar, you may have discovered that your natural writing voice is not the same as the writing voice you wanted to use at the very beginning of your book. But don’t worry! Keep writing the way that feels comfortable, and don’t try to force yourself to fit into the mold you picked out at first. Your writing will come more fluidly that way.
Do think about which tone you like better, as you will want to edit your book for consistency later on. I recommend sticking with your natural writing voice, as that’s going to come across as more honest than something that doesn’t sound like you, but if you really need to fit into a different narrative voice, you can always edit yourself into that tone later.
How did this week’s challenge go? Are you maintaining a consistent tone? Leave a comment and share your experiences!
*This Week’s Word Count*
Your book is as long as: “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
By this point in your book, you’ve introduced a whole collection of characters, each with their own unique personality, goals, and ways of doing things.
Yet for some reason, when you write dialogue between them, they start to sound like the same person.
What’s up with that?
Because you’re a human being who talks to other human beings, you have your own way of communicating. You use certain phrases, gestures, and speech patterns. You use a certain type of vocabulary. You use long or short sentences, lots of metaphors or none at all, and a given amount of enthusiasm in how you talk.
Like it or not, your characters all tend to gravitate toward that same way of communicating. You created them, and they live in your head. It’s only natural that they should start to sound like you.
Of course, you don’t want all of your characters to be offshoots of your own psyche, so you want them to have their own speech patterns. How do you do that?
The easiest way to add some variety to your characters’ speech is to pick out a character who has a backstory that is different from everyone else. Perhaps they are highly educated. If so, give them a wider vocabulary and a more formal way of speaking. Perhaps they’re less educated. Have them use slang. Perhaps they’re a daydreamer. Have them speak in metaphors. Perhaps they’re from a different area of the world and they have an accent. (While an accent may not actually change the way you write a character’s words, it can subconsciously help you change their speech patterns to be different from your own. Try it out and see if it works for you.)
Once you’ve given unique voices to the outlying characters, you need to differentiate between the rest of the cast. This is much harder, and it’s mostly up to your imagination. Maybe one of the characters likes cars, so they tend to describe things in terms of horsepower and grease. Maybe they use run-on sentences. Maybe they use as few words as possible. Maybe they have a catchphrase. Maybe they make sound effects when they’re trying to describe something. Maybe they get distracted and comment on things entirely unrelated to the conversation. Maybe they just move their hands a lot while talking. Whatever the case, try to find something unique about each of your characters to keep in mind when writing their dialogue. This will help their voices avoid running together and will give them one more little detail to make them three-dimensional.
A lot of the work you put into this will not be consciously noticed by your readers. They probably won’t look at your writing and say, “Gee, look at how distinct each character’s voice is! That’s awesome!” But they’ll feel that level of detail, and it will help them connect with your characters and follow your story more easily.
A word of caution: Don’t let these unique voices turn your characters into stereotypes, particularly if you’re giving them an accent. While accented dialogue can be interesting to read, it can also annoy readers if it’s shoved in their faces too strongly or if it interferes with the flow of the text. If a character’s unique voice seems like it’s there solely for the purpose of being special, tone it down or try something else that reveals something about their personality, rather than just setting them apart.
How do you differentiate your characters’ voices from one another? Leave a comment and share your own ideas!
*This Week’s Word Count*
Your book is as long as: “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde