Characters – Part 2: Letting Their Voices Be Heard

I find that one of the most difficult challenges I face when I’m writing is making sure that each character has a distinctive voice, attitude and personally. They must be unique, in order to help the reader distinguish more easily between characters and to make the characters seem much more life-like.

IMG_1380You may remember my first post on characters, Characters – Part 1: Getting In Their Heads, in which I described the process that I go through when I create a character. This is only half the battle. Once the character is created, you have to find a way to write them as their own character. In effect, they must have realistic personalities, human-like personality quirks and defining characteristics. I feel that any good writer should – and most likely does – treat their characters as real people. If you can imagine that you are having a dialogue with any one of your characters, it is important to try and think how they will respond to particular questions – and then make certain that their answers are truly reflective of their own personality and set them apart from the other personalities in your novel or story.

IMG_1383Once I create a character, I have an idea in my head of what I want them to look like. Now, I’m not much of an artist (in fact I’m pretty terrible – although I am trying to get better) but I do like to sketch out what I imagine my character will look like. This helps me to imagine what they will look like, and it gives me a physical reference that is easier to ‘read’ than plain text that says: “Tanned skin, brown hair, brown eyes, etc.”.IMG_1382Oh yeah, and it’s really kind of fun to draw even if you suck at it. Am I ashamed at my complete lack of skill? Absolutely not.

Once I’ve got into my head how they look, I can start to imaginatively elaborate on the facial visual I have created, which helps me to see how a character’s face will look when they are talking. A lot of your character’s identity can come from their expressions, which is exceptionally difficult to convey through words.

IMG_1386I try my best to give each of my characters their own ‘appearance’ and that, in turn, will help me to find their own ‘voice’. I first imagine how they talk and express things, and how their expressions compliment these attributes. It can get difficult to convey everything you know about that character to the reader, especially if you really wish for your readers to be able to imagine said character as a real person.

IMG_1384Once I have their image down, and also how they talk and how their voice sounds, I start to wonder how they will react in certain situations. I try to draw parallels as much as I can. For one story I know for a fact that Soto Trycon is much more confident in himself than Jon is, just as I know that Lila Bronze does not share the same feelings for Jon that he shares for her. I know that Darias is far more eager, in-the-moment than Galan; and that Galan can be quite pompous at times. When faced with the same situation, I know that each of these characters will react differently, but more importantly I know how they will react and I can explain to you why I know this.

IMG_1381As a writer, I like to know the life story of my characters, and as a writer with readers, I hope that the omniscience of  the narrator – yours truly – can be conveyed without a long, boring description, and without giving out too much about any one character all at once. As the story progresses, I think that the reader should learn more about each character, not be bombarded with everything there is to know in the beginning.

Another thing I do when writing is I make notes of each characters decision – making sure that would actually be a decision that they would make – and then I keep track of them all so that I can help to maintain consistency. A character has to react in a similar fashion each time, so that it will help build an identity for that character.

IMG_1385This also helps me with character change and development – something I am not very good at. If I plan out and keep notes on decisions that characters make, I can more easily create a pathway that I want that specific character to travel and, in turn, shape their development along the way.

Most of this is probably not news to you, and most of it doesn’t matter to you. If you’re a writer you’ve already got your little quirks that you use. Hopefully there is something of use in all of my babbling, and if not, at least you got to see some horrible art (some more terrible than others) from various stages of my life (in between the ages of 10 and 20 mostly).

IMG_1379

What do you do to keep your characters unique and distinct?

Does anyone else enjoy drawing your characters for a visual reference?

Thanks for reading!

Till Next,

-Will

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Categories: Life, Writing, Writing Devices | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Characters – Part 2: Letting Their Voices Be Heard

  1. Excellent post! I love the drawings. Whatever makes your character real and alive to you is definitely the way to go. Thank you for re-posting my article. I hope it helped! I can’t wait to check back in soon!

    • Thank you so much! =D And your article was relevant with the first part, so I thought, what the hell. Why not give you another nod. I liked it that much! 🙂

  2. I do the same! Nice post.

  3. I more often than not base my characters on people I know or interesting people I’ve come across. Beware befriending the novelist! You never know when you might turn up in one of their books! If I see a picture of someone I think is interesting, I will copy and paste it in a file I keep on characters. Sometimes I morph pictures to create a character that matches an image I have in my head. I’m really keen on how my characters sound: the tonal qualities of their voices, the way they speak, etc. And while I’m not a believer in astrology per se and predicting the future, I have found that descriptions of the various signs in the zodiac can be very useful in creating a realistic, multidimensional character with both good and bad traits. I might start with one or two traits I have in mind for a character and then thumb through descriptions of the different signs until I find one that fits what I was thinking of. It just simplifies the whole process to approach it from that angle: what is this character’s personality like? Once you know that, you can predict what they will do and how they will react in different situations. Personality test sites are also a good and interesting place to start creating characters, I have found.

    • I get inspiration from people in real life and I base characteristics on people that I meet…but when it comes to aliens, I really need to draw those out so that I know what they look like haha

      • Oh,well, aliens are fairly common here in New Mexico (Roswell). Why do you think they’re building a space port down here? 😉

        • Well I should come visit and you can show me where all the aliens are. I could be like James Bond or something, spying on them all. I’d need to train up for a while, though…I don’t think spying on aliens is a hobby that is easily picked up. 😉

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