1. Will-J67

    Will-J67 Member

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    Character voice

    Discussion in 'Progress Journals' started by Will-J67, May 18, 2017.

    Question: Besides spelling, face and physical description, how do you make your characters sound different from each other?
     
  2. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    This is the wrong subforum for this thread, but in answer to your question: there are several different ways.

    How does your character speak. A sellsword or ruffian on the other hand would speak more colloquially - probably be grammatically incorrect, and might use more obscenities. Some characters might be bubbly and like to speak, whereas there are other introverted characters you might have who might say a few short words, speaking only when spoken too.

    One of the easiest ways of implementing differences is ask yourself how they respond to authority? Do they speak freely and insubordinately, or do they say lot of a "sir" or "my lady"?

    Let's use a really simplified example that has come right from the top of my head. Let's say I'm in the office and boiling the kettle on my break, about to make myself a nice cup of tea, and somebody else also enters the room.

    "Would you make me a cup of tea?" is the generic question from a generic character. Bland. It's OK, but it doesn't really say anything about the character.

    "Any chance you might be able to make me a cup of tea, please?" The character is frail, showing deference, emboldened here.

    "Pour me out some dishwater too, would you?" might be the question from a highly witty colleague who I am good friends with. Notice how the banter is struck up right away.

    "Make me a cup of tea." A much more aggressive opener like this might be expected from somebody who I do not get on with. Maybe they might not even say anything at all. Sometimes this is just as telling as actual speech.

    "Stick the kettle on, would you?" would what an old, forgetful colleague might say who hasn't noticed the fact that you're already standing there boiling the kettle.

    My highly obnoxious boss says: "I'll have a cup of tea." Notice how this is subtly different from "Make me a cup of tea." Now this character is not even telling you to do something for him, he's just expecting you to do it. This is just more rude, rather than trying to be confrontational, or maybe they are trying to exert some authority.

    Another way is by using accents, though this isn't recommended because it is difficult to be consistent with this and can sometimes be difficult to read. There are a few instances where it is executed really well (Brian Jacques' Redwall is a lot of fun for this), but generally you should stay away from using them and use other methods.

    So, long story short, perhaps you need to find some ways to vary "Would you make me a cup of tea?" to try to give your characters more diverse voices.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
    jannert and QueenOfPlants like this.
  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    And Homer would say, "Who's ready for cocktails!"
     
  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm confused about the spelling?

    But mostly, word choice and phrasing.

    Emily asked, "Could I have a medium hot chocolate, please? Extra hot?"

    Henry placed a five on the counter. "Hot chocolate, extra hot. Huh? Oh. Medium. Or grande or whatever you call it."

    Mrs. Reynolds peered up at the menu. "Do you have cocoa? Oh, yes, thank you, I'd like a medium, please. And it does seem to get cold so very fast...oh, you can do that? Wonderful! That's so nice; thank you so much. That Starbucks down the road, now, they just don't seem to want to... (ramble ramble ramble)..."

    Joe said, eyes down on his phone, thumb texting full-speed, "Medium hot chocolate to go."
     
  5. Will-J67

    Will-J67 Member

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    Thank. I appreciate the advice. I 'll give it a shot. This is my second book and the first was simpler as far as dialogue. This one is proving difficult do to having more than 3 nationalities.
     
  6. Will-J67

    Will-J67 Member

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    By spelling, I mean how the words are said.
     
  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Got it. As in phonetic representation of accents? I'm opposed to that, but I suppose that may be a separate topic.
     
  8. Will-J67

    Will-J67 Member

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    Yeah I m still trying to figure it all out. Way I figure it, I need to purposefully miss spell words, use poor or proper grammer and broken sentences or words. I 'll give that a try.
     
  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I can't see why you would want to misspell words if this is people speaking.
     
  10. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I very much agree with @Dracon. It's okay to use phonetics to some extent, but like @ChickenFreak , I'm not a huge fan. If your character's vernacular (the actual words they choose, not how they say the words) is unique, then reproducing it seems to work well. But just an accent? I'm not a fan.

    What Dracon is pointing out is the use of attitude. What attitude does your speaker have to what they are speaking about?

    If you can get yourself firmly into the scene you're writing, rather than just ticking off plot points, this should become relatively easy to do. What do the voices sound like? What words do these people use? How fast do they speak? Do they tend to interrupt? Or do they pause to think before they speak? How do other people react to what they say? (Context is important as well.) These factors all come into play. Dracon's exercise regarding the tea is an excellent one to take on board. It boils down to attitude, doesn't it? What would that character say, and how would they say it? And what do they actually mean?

    Think of the phrase: I doubt it. That can be said in SO many ways for so many reasons. It can be said to soothe somebody who is worried. It can be said sarcastically, as a put-down. It can be confrontational and start an argument or fight. It can be simply explanatory, or part of a debating point. It can be said with a degree of sadness or regret.

    Get stuck into undercurrents of a scene and the overall personality of your characters, and you should be able to shape your dialogue so the voices are individual and memorable.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
  11. Will-J67

    Will-J67 Member

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    Miss spell may be the wrong way to say it. I mean't in how they say a word. It may start and end differently when they say it.
     
  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think that you do mean phonetic reproduction of accents. And I recommend against that in most cases. It's just too hard to read, and you can usually get the flavor that you want with word choice and phrasing.
     
  13. Will-J67

    Will-J67 Member

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    Thanks. I ll try that. It sounds easier.
     

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