Writing Solid Characters
I was born in Bakersfield, California. For those of you who are not familiar with this city, it’s in the Valley. My folks moved my siblings and I down to Atlanta, Ga right before I hit my teens so when I speak, I sometimes have that ‘Valley-Girl’ lingo or I can get real country at times, ha!
People from Atlanta recognize that I’m not originally from Atlanta and when I visit back home, the people there notice that I have a bit of a southern accent. My voice, the language that I speak, and my dialect tell who I am as a person—and it displays where I’ve been in life so far. This is why defining your character’s voice is crucial.
Your Character’s Voice Run’s Things.The inner voice inside of them control’s everything about them as individuals—and it helps you, the writer, create a consistent character throughout your story.
The Voice Is Deeper Than You Think. Creating your character’s voice takes more than just giving them an accent and an attitude. The first step in building your character’s voice is to decipher their language and dialect.
Language, Dialect, and Speech… Oh My!
For starters, what’s your character’s native language? If they speak more than one language, what language do they speak frequently? After deciding your character’s language, you can create a backstory based off their language (like where they’re from, where they live, what their household was like growing up, and if their parents speak a specific language too).
After deciding their language, creating their dialect is significant too because one may use a particular word based on their culture, social groups, or the state/region they’re from.
From a simple conversation, you can dig deeper and decide how much race, pop-culture, political issues, or economic issues play into the character’s dialect/lingo. Making these decisions help keep your character consistent throughout the story.
Sometimes We Just Don’t Know What To Say
As authors, novelist and bloggers, every single character we write favor some aspect of our lives. Being said, it means that we have to be extra specific and extra careful when structuring our sentences.
Figuring out the right words to say and how to say it. Structuring your character’s words into sentences can be easier when you decide their background story and antics.
- Their cultural identities
- Level of education
- Words they say often
- Phrases they say often
- If they keep their explanations short and to the point or not
- Do they communicate more through body language and sounds (grunts, snorts, groans, etc.)
The Tone of one’s voice speaks louder than words
It’s always fun for me to decide the quality of my character’s voice because this is when I can choose the power they have. For example, if my male character has a prominent and deep tone that resonates, I can write him as a strong but compassionate individual who sways masses when he speaks– even when he’s speaking short phrases.
When deciding on their tone, think of characteristics and antics that make a particular type of person one way.
Some things to consider:
- The attitude your character favors (sarcastic, cynical, somber, shy, enthusiastic, etc.)
- If they mutter or speak prominently and clearly
How Your Character Interacts
At some point, your character interacts with other characters. After deciphering his/her tone, language, and their favorite phrases, you can decide who your character prefer communicating with based on their characteristics.
Based off the characteristics that you selected for your character, you can take the following into consideration:
- The people and/or topics they avoid
- Strong or passive in their interaction
- Submissive and uncertain when they speak
- Lack of confidence when speaking to people (using “um” and “uh”)
We underestimate how important it is to write down somewhere each of the characteristics within our characters. As writers, we are fueled by creativity and random thoughts, so it can be difficult to remember every trait within EVERY character that we are writing.
Taking the time to decide your characters’ antics helps you create a consistent story because you’ll have consistent characters– thus limiting the need for multiple rewrites and edits.