Ahoy thar, salty dogs! Karou here wit’ me best sea rover impression t’ natter about—wha’ else?—writin’.
Even though pirates prolly didn’ natter this way in real life, pirate speak be pervasive ’n popular. Say “Arr, matey!” t’ any native English speaker ’n thar’s a good chance ye’ll automatically evoke th’ pirate character voice.
Aye, this be another writin’ tale about voice.
Don’t abandon ship, me hearties! In combination wit’ developin’ yer unique author voice, writin’ characters wit’ clear, strong voices will set ye apart.
Think of your favorite movies. The ones you find yourself quoting all the time. They all share at least one thing in common: memorable characters who feel realistic and believable and lovable or love-to-hateable.
Like pirates, all iconic characters have their own distinct and peerless voices. You can spot an iconic character’s voice anywhere, and the voice is so inextricably tied to that character, it would sound utterly ridiculous coming out of any other character’s mouth.
Can you imagine any of these quotes, with their specific vocabulary and diction, being swapped into another movie?
I mean, look how I just slipped out of pirate speak so it wouldn’t get annoying. See how inconsistent I seem? ????
RUFF! editors are here to help authors spot flat characters, characters who all sound the same, characters who just talk like the author, and characters who are inconsistent. Because across genres, one thing holds true: you want your readers falling in love with your characters. Don’t let your hero fade into the background as Book Boyfriend Number Three!
Developing your voice starts with choosing the correct point of view to serve your story.
Defining the voices of each of your characters takes time. Voice consists of things a character says plus things the character would never, ever say. It includes their cultural influence, their worldview, their personality, their personal experiences, and their beliefs.
There’s no easy button, though there are resources galore that offer helpful and innovative education and exercises to get you there.
The short and long of it is this:
You have to get to know your characters.
The best way to do this is to write. And write. And write.
Write them happy. Write them sad. Write throwaway scenes—scenes that will never make it into your book—where they’re terrified, honored, devastated, delighted, content, bereft. What does it take to make them feel each emotion? How do they react when you torture or treat them? What do they say? What do they hide? What were they doing just before you decided to drop them onto the page?
When you really know your characters, writing your book levels up to new heights of fun… and readers will have fun falling in love with your characters, too.
You tell us, seadogs! Ready yer sea legs and leave the landlubbers behind.
What great line from a movie or book do you quote often? What’s a unique about the voice of the character who says that?
Also, writers, what is your favorite way of getting to know your characters and their voices?
Shiver me timbers, I smell a fresh tennis ball! Wagging a tail to ye scalawags. Until next time.