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How to Give Characters Different Voices

Developing voice is one of those skills that every writer needs. First, we learn our own voice. Then, we learn how to give each of our characters an individual voice. All of us as inexperienced writers tend to give all of our characters our voice at first. The readers experience confusion over exactly who is speaking if every dialog line doesn’t have a tag — “he said” or “she said” with that character’s name.

One way of learning different voices is to listen to people around you. Ease drop on people in a restaurant the next time you go out to eat. Listen to others in a super market line. Compare characters in movies or your favorite television show. What exactly are you looking for? Vocabulary,  commonly used phrases, regional accents, colloquial words or phrases. Make a list for each character as you develop them. An exercise that I found useful is from the “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook” by Maas. He has a chart with a list of commonly used words. Three columns are labeled A, B, and C. Each column represents the vocabulary used by a different character. For example, sofa – couch – divan – love seat. Work on giving your characters their own voice and personality. It will make your fiction better and get you closer to publication. Your readers will fall in love with your characters as they get to know them.