1. Yehnli

    Yehnli New Member

    Nov 17, 2014
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    Characters & Voice & Speech Styles

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Yehnli, Nov 17, 2014.

    Hi all,

    I can read stuff like this and this, but when it comes to putting it into practice, I just don't know where to start and all my characters sound too much alike.

    Is there a practical guide/database/something somewhere to help someone set distinct voices for their character, that won't take more research than most of my university papers? (I'm a bit short on time ^^; )

  2. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    Writing is not an endeavor for the hasty. The database you seek is the fiction section of your library.
  3. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Aug 23, 2013
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    I've found that it helps to

    1) list off as many basic traits of speech as possible:

    sentence length
    use of metaphor/simile
    use of contractions
    use of names vs. pronouns…

    2) decide that each character will unnaturally reflect one extreme or another

    John shows off his allegedly massive intellect by using very long run-on sentences and always insists on names instead of pronouns
    The writer thinks in microbial snippets

    3) write the words and sentences of his/her POV "normally," change the words to fit the unnatural rule you've come up with, and then change the sentences until the words sound natural again.
  4. AlannaHart

    AlannaHart Senior Member

    Jan 18, 2014
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    Several ways four different characters could say the same thing:
    "Your shoelaces are untied."
    "Jesus, didn't anyone ever teach you to tie your own shoes?"
    "Careful! You're going to trip on your laces, there."
    "You might want to tie your shoelaces up, slick."

    Use the voices around you. Think about how people you know that are similar to your character would word things.
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Mar 9, 2010
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    Instead of focusing on slang, I would be inclined to start with a focus on attitude. Alanna's examples, above, are almost all about attitude.
    jannert likes this.
  6. sunwave

    sunwave Member

    Nov 23, 2010
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    Your characters have their own ideas about the ones they're talking to. For example, I have a character that tries to be really kind and is well-behaved, so always tries to bring things subtly. Naturally, they will not curse or use slang. On the other hand, they're not "proper" either because they're from the countryside. She's also a little shy about things she doesn't know, and she doesn't think of herself too highly. Now... let's assume she finds a person she doesn't know when she comes home from work or something. Someone sitting on the bench.
    Naturally, she would say something like "Uhm... who are you?" and maybe freeze in the doorway or something. Maybe it would even be somthing like "May I ask who you are?" even if she's scared of the person, just because she's used to being polite (= not equal to "proper").

    Now... if she was a total badass that didn't like people interfering with her life, it would automatically become a lot more annoyed. Something like "I don't know who you are, but you better explain what you're doing on my sofa," or simply "who the fuck are you?" if they don't mind swearing.

    So simply said: Voice comes from personality. Don't go inventing it seperately. Let it flow from who they are. Things that influcne voice: Emotional state, personality, perception of self, perception of one being talked to and beliefs. Those are probably the major influcences. Minor influences are things like available vocabulary, state of mind (drunk or tired), etc.
    Simpson17866 and jannert like this.
  7. Gigi_GNR

    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

    Jul 25, 2009
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    Milwaukee, WI
    This. Also, read your favorite books and watch your favorite shows for reference! Say your dialogue out loud as you're writing it. The way people speak reflects who they are and how they think.

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