1. MilesTro

    MilesTro Senior Member

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    Character Voice Development Help

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by MilesTro, Nov 19, 2017.

    When you hear this character's name, Jenny Summer, what kind of female character would you assume she is? Her looks and personality? I just need some ideas to develop her voice in my first person draft. And I thought this type of exercise would help me out.
     
  2. Odile_Blud

    Odile_Blud Active Member

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    Sounds like a "girl next door" sort of girl to me.
     
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  3. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    If I read a compelling story about a well-characterized serial killer named Jenny Summer, it would feel like "a serial killer name" by the time I was done ;)

    EDIT: in all some seriousness, I've found that what helps me with voice is to first pick a rule or two that my character's lines will follow, write them in a way that doesn't necessarily feel natural but which follows the rule, and then later edit the sentence to sound more natural while still following the rule :)

    For example, I have one guy in my Doctor Who fanfiction who doesn't use relative pronouns if there's a way that I can write the sentence without them :cool:
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2017
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  4. Enyo

    Enyo Member

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    White, pretty, young (no more than 25), light hair, nice smile.
     
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  5. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    Well, I picture a happy, pretty girl with dimples and a good nature. But it depends rather on what I read about her. I find that when you develop their character, their voice just kind of follows. For example, one of my main characters is actually narrating the story, so obviously, her voice is very important. She's sociable and chatty, so she narrates in long sentences, big paragraphs, sometimes justifying what she's saying, and talking about how she's feeling. Another (third person) main character is moody and difficult, so she speaks in short sentences and hurls insults like there's no tomorrow. Another character feels disconnected from the world, so she speaks very formally, using lots of long words and often takes questions literally or gets philosophical without any sort of cue at all.

    Hope that helps. I find I express things best in examples.
     
  6. WhiteKnight75

    WhiteKnight75 Member

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    I agree with Simpson.
    I tend to first follow one simple rule and then it kind of comes naturally. For example one of my characters rarely uses first person pronouns for some reason. Another guy says balls all the time.
    You just have to make it up as you go and I find that it isn't to hard if you really know your character.
     
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  7. MilesTro

    MilesTro Senior Member

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    Thank you.
     
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  8. K McIntyre

    K McIntyre Active Member

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    First, I would need to know where the character is from. Regional differences in dialect, speech patterns, etc reveal much more about the character than just a name.
     
  9. MilesTro

    MilesTro Senior Member

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    She lives in New York and she is a reporter. Her family lives in the country, but she prefers to be an urban girl.
     
  10. K McIntyre

    K McIntyre Active Member

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    I'd give her dark hair and dark eyes, just because "Summer" conjures up images of blonds (sunshiney things). I like to be a little contrary like that. Does she like being called "Jenny", or does she prefer "Jennifer" at the office? Hard to take a reporter seriously if her name is "Jenny". Just my two cents worth.
     
  11. MilesTro

    MilesTro Senior Member

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    She is called Jenny.
     
  12. Jak of Hearts

    Jak of Hearts Active Member

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    At first thought, when I hear "Jenny Summers" would be a younger highschool/college girl; blonde, thin, possibly cheerleader/athlete, maybe ditzy but not dumb. My second thought would be like a 25-30 year old librarian with glasses and a ponytail. But that's just going off of a name. But a name can also say a lot about a character.
     
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  13. MilesTro

    MilesTro Senior Member

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    Sounds like a
    good thought.
     
  14. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    To be honest, I think there might be a certain amount of bias in this. I might be the only one in this thread who doesn't picture her as blonde, largely because I picture her looking like my cousin Jenny, who is dark-haired. It's possible that readers may also have associations with a name, but personally, I've been wondering if it really matters if a reader's mental image of a character is the same as the author's.
     
  15. Jak of Hearts

    Jak of Hearts Active Member

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    Which is exactly why when I write characters I only write the bare minimum physical description necessary. One character I wrote I mention that he has a shaved head but literally nothing else about him. I never give his height, his skin color, or any other distinguishing features other than he's in good shape. I like letting the readers come up with what they want.
     
  16. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    I didn't picture her as blone, either.

    To be honest, authors who skip a physical description tend to lose me as a reader. While the author may have different reasoning, to me it always feels like author skipped over it, or was too much in a hurry, or doesn't trust their decriptive abilities...something. It always feels off to me, because it entirely leaves out one of the senses, and in real life, people describe other people.

    I tried leaving the description out of one character in my current WIP because she's a shy character but went back and added a description because I hate reading books without one.
     
  17. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    To be honest, I do that too, but I've become allergic to clothing descriptions, for which I blame the infamous My Immortal.
     
  18. MilesTro

    MilesTro Senior Member

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    Characters don't have to be described fully. Only enough for the readers to get the idea of what they look like.
     
  19. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I'm a little puzzled here. How many of us look or act like our names?

    A name is more reflective of culture or heritage, isn't it? I suppose to some extent that can influence looks. But I wouldn't tie in the way somebody looks to their name, unless their name was incredibly ethnic and specific.

    Of course if you're writing a comic-book character, that's a different issue. Then you probably would name a character to suit their personality. But not in the real world.

    I'd say be wary of choosing a name that boosts your character-development work. It's a bit too glib and superficial, for me anyway. It's entirely up to you, the writer, what sort of person Jenny Summer is. I wouldn't want to get hung up on matching her name to her looks or personality.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017
  20. Partridge

    Partridge Senior Member

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    I think everyone will have a different idea about a character based on their name, depending on what their first experience with somebody with that first name is.
    I think of a freckly ginger girl who's a thief - only because a girl called Jenny stole my scented gel pens when I was 7.
    It also means a reader could think of somebody called Jenny as being a porn star or their Granny, depending on what/who they associate with that name.

    I've been developing the voices of my characters by using certain phrases in their dialogue. My MC is a bachelor in his forties who grew up in Central London, so uses a lot of outdated "yuppie" slang.

    My secondary character is a twenty-something wannabe surfer/stoner type dickhead, so uses a lot of "hip" phrases, so stuff such as "like", "dude" and "totally".

    I've found it changes the whole way you make that character speak, if you stick to certain phrases.
     
  21. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Yes, I agree with this. They don't have to be a big deal, but little quirks of dialogue are really good for making a character feel like an individual. You don't need to even go out and look for what that kind of character talks like, you just need to spot those little verbal mannerisms and ensure they use them.

    My top bit of advice would be to figure out what words they use to talk to their friends and partners. These are ones that you will have a good reason to use a lot anyway, and that is very characterful. It doesn't have to be replete with meaning or be sourced from obscure slang; just that this guy calls men dude and women hun and no-one else in the story does that. Little things, you know?

    Oh and don't forget about swearing. Because it's very characterful. No, seriously it is. Some people don't swear at all, some people do it incessantly and even those who swear a lot have words that they use more often than not. Maybe you aren't writing the kind of character who you want swearing constantly but that's ok; what else do they use instead to the same end as expletives and ejaculations? Do they say bollocks or bugger or drat it or what? These again are nice little ways that help a characters voice to feel unique to them.
     
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  22. WhiteKnight75

    WhiteKnight75 Member

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    I like the note on swearing because I have been using it without really noticing.
    I have one character, who basically never swears but there is this one scene where he is seriously pissed and insults a guy. It's not even that bad, he just tells him to piss off but the scene wouldn't be the same if that character would constantly be hearling insults.
    Then there is another guy who can bearly go a sentence without swearing like a sailor.

    Anyway, I think it's a great way to bring some character into your writing.
     
  23. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    And it's fun to write too :D
     
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  24. raine_d

    raine_d Active Member

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    Names do in themselves have some influence on how we 'see' people even before we do see them (witness the studies that show which names make a better first impression on a resume). Bruce Lansky's baby name books actually went into this, by polling - through one or more of the big baby name sites - what image names had (generally - of course each individual has different acquaintances/family/friends which influence what they think, but given how pervasive the media is, I wonder if this is getting just that bit more generalised these days).

    I dug out my copy of the one from 2007 and for Jenny came up with "filled with good spirits, sunny, fun-loving, perky and happy to go with the flow"... and yes, blonde and petite.

    Which is not to say that one hit TV series with a dark, glowering, evil Jenny won't make THAT change in a hurry :)
     
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  25. itsmickib

    itsmickib Member

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    Yes, exactly what I thought. But I agree with LostThePlot. I don't think the name alone can determine a character's voice. There are so many other things to consider.
     
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