Are all of your characters sounding a bit…the same? If so, read Stefanie London’s post today on Who Said That? And give your characters the voice they deserve!
In a romance novel characters are king. The best, most intriguing plots won’t make your reader happy unless they believe in the characters and are cheering them on toward their HEA! Now, creating great characters is a topic that’s incredibly vast. Today I’m going to be zeroing in on one specific aspect of characters: their voice.
Have you ever read a book where the characters kind of sound the same? Have you ever skipped back a few lines of dialogue to try and figure out which characters was speaking? Frustrating, isn’t it?
What’s included in the character’s voice?
A character’s voice isn’t just the words that come out of their mouths, although that is very important. Their voice also includes the way they speak (tone, cadence and speech patterns), and how they think when you’re in their point of view.
The internal thought patterns can be forgotten when you’re working on voice. But, if you’re wanting to create a deep point of view of both the hero and heroine (whether you use third or first person to show those points of view), they need to sound different from one another.
So how do you do it? There are a plenty of ways to understand the difference in how your characters will speak and think. It’s almost like applying a lens over the writing. You know what the characters need to say in a particular scene, but you can strengthen how they say it by taking one of the below lenses and placing it over the words. Here’s a few for you to try.
Lens #1 – their personality
Your characters will each have their own personality type (whether you use a Myers-Briggs style type or you make it up as you go) and that should be reflected in their speech. A character who’s very black and white might often phrase question to get a yes or no response. A characters who’s got her head in the clouds might spout motivational quotes.
In The Rules According to Gracie, the heroine is a Type-A women who lives by checklists and boundaries. The hero is a serious guy, but he works for himself and likes to go with the flow. She often quotes her own rules and he always forgets them.
“Rule number two: don’t mock a girl’s ideals.” She offered a smile, sidestepping the argument for now. But she wasn’t going let him off the hook too easily.
“What was rule number one again?” His brow crinkled.
“You’re going to struggle if we’ve only gotten to rule two and you’re already forgetting. Rule number one was no worrying about work.”
Lens #2 – their personal passion
Whatever the character is interested in will affect the way they think, speak and draw comparison. A gamer might compare situations to his or her favourite video game, and a passionate baker might compare her lover to her favourite flavour of frosting.
Here’s an example from Only The Brave Try Ballet:
She was determined to be the consummate professional, even if it was harder to pull off than the pas de deux from Don Quixote Act Three. ‘I can see improvements already and it’s only your first lesson.’
‘It’s not exactly difficult,’ he responded, his blue eyes meeting hers and sending a chill down her spine. His tone dismissed her praise. ‘I’m bending up and down on the spot. A two-year-old could master that.’
In Ballerina heroine, Jasmine’s, POV there are a lot of ballet terms, she references notoriously difficult pas de deux choreography because that’s how she thinks. Grant is a ‘no airs and graces’ kinda guy, hence he doesn’t feel the need to call the steps by their proper names.
Lens #3 – their profession
People who work in certain fields will pepper their speech with lingo and technical terms appropriate to what they do…even if story is not set in their workplace or if they left their jobs years ago. For example, a retired medical examiner may always refer to a scrape on the knee as an abrasion. To a botanist, a tree is not simply a tree. They would be more likely to call the tree by either its scientific name, or at the very least by the specific type of tree that it is.
Here’s an example from A Dangerously Sexy Christmas (which is coming out in November!) The hero is an ex-police officer and is now working for a private security company. He’s the first person speaking in this excerpt:
“The client is an antiques dealer whose daughter was the victim of two robberies, but the supposed thieves stole nothing in either break-in. The shop where she works and her home were both ransacked. Last night there was a voice message referring to the Noelle Diamond, whatever that is. No suspects at this stage, and the client’s daughter hasn’t been forthcoming with much information.”
“Ooh, I love it when you speak cop.” Quinn rubbed her hands together.
He speaks almost formally, as if reading from a report because that’s how he’s used to organise the information in his head. His years serving as a police officer make him very detail oriented and focused. This often comes out when he’s speaking.
There are plenty more ways to look at differentiating voice, such as:
- Cultural background
- View of the world
The list goes on! If you find your characters voices are starting to merge into one, try applying one of these lenses and see how you can make them sound more unique. You could even try taking a scene and stripping away all the tags to look at the dialogue and/or thoughts by themselves. Can you tell who is saying what?
Have you read a story lately where the characters had a really strong unique voice? How did they sound different from the other characters?
Join us on Monday for author Elisa Redgold!
Bio: A voracious reader, Stefanie has dreamed of being an author her whole life. After sneaking several English Lit subjects into her “very practical” Business degree, she got a job in corporate communications. But it wasn’t long before she turned to romance fiction. She recently left her hometown of Melbourne to start a new adventure in Toronto and now spends her days writing contemporary romances with humour, heat and heart. She frequently indulges in her passions for good coffee, French perfume and zombie movies.
For more information on Stefanie and her books, subscribe to her newsletter and check out her website. She loves to hear from readers! You can interact with her and ask questions via her Facebook page.
Stefanie’s latest book is A KISS IN KITE HARBOR, which features in the Small Town Summer box set.
From warm sunny days to long sultry nights, spend your summer falling in love in a small town! These nine contemporary romances featuring sassy heroines, sexy heroes, and lots of heartwarming romance make the perfect beach read. Whether your pleasure is sweet small town romance or smolderingly sexy love stories, there’s something in the Small Town Summer box set for everyone!
Small Town Summer includes novellas from nine BESTSELLING, AWARD WINNING, and RISING STAR authors.
- The Story is in the Eye of the Beholder: Choosing the Best Point of View (Part 1) Heather Webb
- It’s All in the Voice by Heather Webb
- Five Ways Point of View Can Make You a Better Writer by Janice Hardy
- Your Voice Is Your Passport: Deconstructing the Mysterious Thing Called Voice with Kat Cantrell
- Tips on Writing Deep POV by Barbara Wallace