Character: The Danger of “Unique Voices”

Characters can be difficult to differentiate. No matter how hard you try, they’re always going to be a bit of an extension of you because you’re thinking for them. It’s not impossible, making them different people just requires changing your point of view for each of them. But sometimes, it can be a struggle to make them all feel like different people to you and your audience.

One of the most commonly passed around pieces of advice to resolve this easily is to give each of the characters a “unique voice”. The advice is a matter of making them all read as different people when they speak so that they end up feeling further differentiated from each other. This will generally let you know who is speaking and how they think without much more context, in theory.

But I’ve noticed when newer writers, and even some older ones, go about trying to make this happen they end up causing something they didn’t intend. While it’s true that many of the characters will stand out as individuals, they don’t always sound like who they were meant to be. The ways we transcribe linguistic ticks to the page are limited, what with only having three tools at our disposal to make it work. Letters, vocabulary, and punctuation can go a long way, but not nearly far enough to truly relate the human voice. Unfortunately, this means a lot of people, in trying to provide a “unique voice”, make the same mistake.

To put it bluntly: your characters sound stupid… Continue reading Character: The Danger of “Unique Voices”