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  1. sapphire_chan
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    sapphire_chan Member

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    They all sound like me!

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by sapphire_chan, Sep 7, 2009.

    Okay, they've got backgrounds, personalities, etc, etc. But when I go to write the dialog every sentence reads like it's coming out of my mouth.

    E.g.
    Viewpoint character (who can sound like me :D) says "I think you'll want to leave the country, assuming, that is, that your boss is as prone to violence as I suspect."

    Minor character later on is trying to say (but I'm squelching him) "I think she's p---ed off that we ignored her, at least I assume you two also ignored her as all three of us are getting the cold shoulder now."

    Obviously, I can carry on and fix it in a second draft, or post for rewriting suggestions, but what I'm really looking for is what do you do to write with different voices? What exercises,ways of thinking, etc, have helped?
     
  2. Anabella
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    Anabella Member

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    "I think she's p---ed off that I ignored her. All three of us are getting the cold shoulder. You two did it too, didn't you?" (for ex.)

    Trying picturing someone completely opposite from you, or better yet someone that gets on your nerves and then write down that character.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Observe the people around you and model your characters after them. Try to imagine what he or she would say in a given situation. Also, you may find it easier to work with a smaller number of characters so that there won't be issues of "overlapping" voices.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Use people you know. Family, friends. think of their speech mannerisms and use them as frameworks.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you have to develop a writer's 'ear' and store up all you hear, for when you need it...

    and you must get to 'know' your characters, in order to know how they'd speak... every person in your story/book isn't the same person, with the same background, education and personality, right?... so, you must tailor each one's speech to who and what they are and why...

    for instance, if you have a street person stopping your protag and asking for a handout, they're both not going to speak the same way, are they?... nor will a thug and a debutante...

    surely, if you want to be a writer, you must read books... and you must watch tv and movies... people of all sorts talk in all of those, don't they?... well, start listening!
     
  6. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    "I think she's p---ed off that we ignored her, at least I assume you two also ignored her as all three of us are getting the cold shoulder now."

    This character is making assumptions similar to the first character. That's pretty obvious, but also the key to the similarity in speech. You see, people speak according to how the percieve the world and treat information from their perceptions. Making assumptions is a character trait. If you change the characters to have distinctively different traits, then their way of speaking will change too.

    Let's say the above character wasn't so sure about themselves as to make assumptions of everything, but rather takes everything into careful analysis:

    "Is she just mad at me, or are you guys getting the same vibe? I think I might have ignored her too obviously and that ticket her off... You did the same, didn't you?"
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'll agree with all of the above, and suggest a hobby to take up: peoplewatching.
     
  8. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    If nothing else, try saying it in a different mood- that will at least give you some variation on what you're writing.
     
  9. sapphire_chan
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    sapphire_chan Member

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    :D Actually, I haven't wanted to be a writer, I'm forcing myself to write because I'm scared of it. I'm finding it easier than I expected though.

    One problem is that how I speak and write (e.g. letters) changes based on the books I've been reading, tv I've been watching. If I read Jane Austen, everything goes 19th century for a day or two.

    And reading Agatha Christie after listening to a lot of PG Wodehouse on tape is something everyone should try at least once. Miss Marple with a "pip pip cheerio" sort of rhythm to her speech is the funniest thing ever, right up until you have to stop reading before your head implodes with weirdness.
     
  10. sapphire_chan
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    sapphire_chan Member

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    Whining aside, thank you everyone! When you say it, it's obvious, but 300 words into my first foray at story writing, I couldn't see the forest for the trees.
     
  11. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    I know it sounds strange, but have you ever tried acting out your scenes?

    When I was in High School I took some Creative Writing classes (I went to one of those fruity arts schools) and my teacher practically forced me into drama the next year. Ever since those damned classes I've always acted the scenes I've written, usually in my head but if I'm bored enough I'll act it out... as long as my shades are firmly shut and no one is home.

    I'm always able to better describe the setting and the dialogue if I've felt as though I've been there.

    God I hope I don't sound insane.
     
  12. sapphire_chan
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    sapphire_chan Member

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    No, great idea.

    And really, it makes it clear why this story is giving me so much character grief. It started as sort of recurring daydream I've had when I drive long distances. So I've essentially been acting it out with myself in all the roles.

    Acting it out is, incidentally, also a great way to do a first edit.
     
  13. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    Has anyone ever started writing and ended up talking like the way you write, so that in the end the characters sound like you because you now sound like them?

    Or are my characters just trying to take me over and control my body, using it to unless terror on the real world after being tired of never actually being written in any appreciable fashion?
     
  14. Anabella
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    Anabella Member

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    Fruity huh? I actually think that is pretty neat. It gets your mind in the right place...connecting the Temporal and the Frontal Lobs together...good for systematic creativity :D
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Study people's syntax. Study how people think.

    An easy trick is to image a character like Andrew Dice Clay, and write the dialog to sound like him, or some other actor or character you know well.

    So Andrew Dice Clay and Dracula pick up on a female.

    "Hey, toots, what ya say we go out sometime. Just got my new ride, know what I mean?"


    "If I could be so bold, hoping not to offend you, my Lady, would you accompany me to the show? My limo is waiting."


    We have two extremes. Those that speak in fragments and those that speak in complete sentences. Of course, some people fall in the middle, but let's look at the extremes.

    Fragments
    Full sentences

    Let’s look at two more extremes.

    Hyper
    Calm

    Now mix those up.

    Calm fragments
    Calm full sentences
    Hyper fragments
    Calm full sentences

    Other extremes you could add: Southern accent, European, street talk.

    "I think she's p---ed off that we ignored her, at least I assume you two also ignored her as all three of us are getting the cold shoulder now."

    Rewrite your example.

    Hyper fragments

    "Wow, she's pissed. Shouldn't have ignored her, huh? You two musta ignored her too. Yeah, why else give us the cold shoulder yanno?"

    Hyper full sentences

    "Holy freaking cow turds, I think she's pissed off that we've ignored her. I mean, I assume you two also ignored her, right? You must have because she's giving all three of us the cold shoulder."

    Calm fragments

    "She seems angry. Shouldn't have ignored her." He sighed. "Assume you two also ignored her as she's blowing us all off now."

    Calm full sentences

    "I think she might be upset that we've ignored her. I shouldn't assume, but I'm sure you two also ignored her, considering she's giving us the silent treatment."

    So think of different combinations and rewrite accordingly. I usually think in extremes first.

    Intelligent or airhead.
    Speaks casually or formally.
    Hyper or calm.
    Fragments, scatter thoughts, or more like full sentences.
    Colloquialisms or not really

    Maybe my character grew up poor and around thugs. She is a book worm.


    Speaks casually
    Shy, so sort of calm, but can get hyper.
    Clear thoughts, but uses fragments.
    Colloquialisms
    Forward

    "She's angry, nah I mean? Maybe if we all didn't ignore her, she wouldn't be all distant right now. Don't eye me like that. You ignored her too."
     
  16. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Hey, that gives me an idea.

    Here's a suggestion, a writing exercise that should help cure your problem:

    Write a conversation in a restaurant where the people around the table are: a Southern aristocrat with a deep accent and a cigar, a Russian spy, Miss Marple (make sure she says "pip pip cheerio"), a very angry Genghis Khan, a little girl with a lollipop and a pink dress, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a homeless guy from Brooklyn, a teenager with an exaggerated lisp, Rocky Balboa, Mister Rogers, Elvis Presley and make the waiter an upper class French guy in a tuxedo.

    When you're done writing the scene, you should be able to write characters who sound nothing like you.

    ...I'm kidding...
     
  17. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    That would be a hard scene to keep up with if all those characters had to talk. :p
     
  18. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    I just imagine that I'm watching someone else doing the actions/speaking.

    I think what you're doing is projecting yourself into every character. I project only into my MC, though I write third person. Other than that, I imagine that I'm interacting with someone else - usually based on an archetype.

    One of my characters was based loosely on Crocodile Dundee, for instance, so I just imagined talking to him when I was writing for that character. I wrote what Crocodile Dundee would say - not what I would say.
     
  19. AmandaC
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    Try thinking about someone you know that talks differently than you do and try putting it in their voice, so to speak. For instance, if I say that I read a book and it was fantastic my best friend would say instead that she just read the best f-ing book ever and you HAVE to read it! Go somewhere and listen to people talk. Listen for accent. Some people say "soda" instead of "pop" or some pronounce the word pajamas as "puh-JAM-uhs" or "puh-JOM-uhs" or some call them "p.j.'s" or "nighties" or whatever. Some people make up their own words. My mom calls lightning storms "thunder-boomers."

    So instead of my, "Holy crap, there's lightning!" my mom would say, "Wow, check out those thunder-boomers!"

    Play with it.
     
  20. Airman
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    Airman Member

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    One of the way I've kept myself from writing them all the same is to flesh them out early. I've found that if I understand where the character's came from, I have a better idea of how they would talk.

    For example...

    I have two separate mages in the story I'm writing. After a few pages into the dialogue, I discovered they both talked the same. Like they were elderly scholars. This obviously didn't work, and would get confusing, so I went back to the drawing board to define the characters. I decided that the "fire mage" (for lack of a better term) needed to be "hot-headed" without seeming trite and contrived. So what I did was make him a drug addict. Now, the character has an interesting angle to him (addicted to my world's version of speed), I've introduced a few possible future conflicts (overcoming his addiction and/or possibly fighting smugglers), and I've differentiated the two characters voices in my head because I have a specific way I think a speed addict should talk and act.
     
  21. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Moreover, you can imagine how a person is raised, and think of phrases that he would use based upon his upbringing.

    For example, a black guy raised where most black people in America are raised (I don't know where, but I can only assume that not EVERY black person who speaks poorly was raised in the ghetto or around gangs, yet I still want to leave room for all of the black people who speak very well, so as not to stereotype too much) might throw out a word that is inexplicably obscure (such as obfuscate) while most of his speech pattern indicates a low level of education (I.E."Yo, I just be eatin' uh sammich. You is coo'.")

    A farmer might also steer clear of complex speech patterns or obscure words, while using slang, or other normal words associated with country folk. (Such as reckon, recollect, I do declare, anything involving 'coon', and many more words and phrases that I'm too tired to write down and wouldn't, anyway)


    If your characters are all talking the same, then they are OSTENSIBLY all thinking the same.

    When a person says the phrase, 'I assume,' he is generally in a different mindset than if he says, "It seems like," or, "I figured."


    Just some stuff to think about.

    A LOT of it is based on the level of education and the drive to learn.

    Someone who is educated might say, "I thought," though another of the same education level might say, "I suspected."
    We give different considerations to our wording, depending upon our personalities.
     
  22. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    Here's the best thing one could do to learn the different ways people speak. Take a trip to the local mall, park, or large social gathering and just sit there listening to all the other conversations that people have. Listen to how the different "social classes" talk or react to things.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you don't have to make a special trip to do this... unless you're a hermit, you can do it with the people around you at work, or at school, or even at home... and on your way to and from those places, as well...
     
  24. nightheart1
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    nightheart1 New Member

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    Try talking to yourself and no I don't mean go crazy, I mean you should think of yourself as your other characters interacting with your MC (you) but make sure to plant yourself firmly in their shoes. For example, a poor street urchin wouldn't go around saying things like, "The weather has been peculiarly monstrous as of late." So just go with the flow of that characters environment and don't let the different characters environments mingle. Set each one apart and firmly draw the boundary line for each characters personalities. Hope I helped. =P
     
  25. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I often get ideas for how a character can talk while debating in Paltalk voice chat. If you are a hermit like me, you don't have to go anywhere to listen to people talk. Just bounce around to difference rooms in Paltalk and you will hear a variety from, American ghetto to Scotland ghetto.
     

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