Character & POV
3 min read

How to give your character's unique and compelling voices

An illustrated image of soundwaves representing the voice of a character in a novel

Crafting unique and compelling voices for your characters is like composing a symphony: each instrument – or, in this case, character – must have a distinct sound that contributes to the overall melody. This article will serve as your guide to orchestrating a memorable and harmonious character ensemble.

Understanding your characters: The sheet music

Just like a composition starts with a note, character creation begins with understanding.

  • Developing character profiles: Create comprehensive profiles for your characters, including their history, personality, likes, dislikes, and other defining characteristics.
  • Considering their backgrounds and experiences: A character's upbringing, cultural background, and past experiences shape their way of speaking and interacting with the world.
  • Examining their personality traits: Extroverted characters may speak differently than introverted ones. A character's voice should reflect their personality.

Finding your character's voice: The individual instruments

Think of your character's voice as their unique instrument in your symphony.

  • Dialogue and word choice: Reflect the character's education, background, and personality in their choice of words.
  • Tone and mannerisms: How a character speaks – their tone, speed, and rhythm – can reveal a lot about their personality.
  • Unique speech patterns: Consider the character's use of slang, expressions, or their favourite turns of phrase.

Writing techniques to enhance character voices: The orchestration

Here are some writing techniques to orchestrate unique and compelling voices for your characters:

  • Using the first-person point of view: This allows readers to delve deep into the character's thoughts, giving a unique insight into their perspective.
  • Using dialogue tags and action tags: Show the character's reactions and movements alongside their words to bring more life to their voice.
  • Show, don't tell: Let the character's actions, decisions, and dialogue speak for their personality and voice.

Avoiding common pitfalls: The sour notes

Even in the best symphonies, a few off-key notes can stand out.

  • Avoiding stereotypes and cliches: Don't rely on overused character tropes or cliched speech patterns.
  • Avoiding overuse of dialect and accents: It can be distracting and potentially offensive. Subtlety is key.
  • Maintaining consistency in character voices: Once you've established a character's voice, be consistent. Sudden, unexplained changes can confuse the reader.

Exercises to develop character voices: The rehearsals

Writing exercises can help you find and hone your characters' voices:

  • Writing prompts and exercises: Try prompts focused on dialogue and character development.
  • Role-playing and improvisation: Step into your characters' shoes and experience the world as they do.
  • Reading and analysing published works: Learn from the masters. Analyse how your favourite authors craft distinct character voices.

The final performance

As a writer, your job is to be the conductor of your character symphony, harmonising their distinct voices into a story that sings. Embrace the diversity of your characters, have fun with their voices, and remember – the music you create is entirely up to you. Each character voice you create adds a new note to your symphony, bringing richness and depth to your story. Keep practising, stay curious, and let your characters sing.