Different Voices

If you’ve been following the blog for a while (and if you’ve been following the blog for a while – thanks!) you’ll know that, with every new project I try to include something new. Something I’ve never done before. This last book, I worked in a bit of romance and found that I enjoyed that.

This time around (Working title = QUEEN’S WILL) I’m trying multiple points of view. As with every new thing, one aspect of it rises to the top and takes the place of the “Thing that I am Most Worried About!”

What I am most worried about this time around are the point of view characters all sounding the same. And it’s a legitimate concern. They’re all being written by the same person after all. I got some early feedback on the first 10k words which included all three points of view.

Early feedback was positive – and important because if there was a problem with different characters sounding too much like each other, I want to find out about it early, so I can start to address it then, not after the entire book has been written.

So how did I go about it?

For me, it started in the character creation phase. And while I do this on some level with every character, I paid particular attention to what each Point of View character sounded like in my head – especially while I was working on character backgrounds. There are also two points during character creation that help me to establish their voice.

I use character sheets and two of the entries on those sheets are places where I describe the character in 50 words, and where I have the character describe themselves in 50 words. Now when I say describe, I’m not talking about their physical description and that 50 words is a set limit. No more, no less. I do that because it forces me to make deliberate choices about what is important. Here’s an example from one of my characters (Kara Winborne) in QUEEN’S WILL:

Describe Kara in 50 words:
Kara is a leader. She’s committed to her cause, her Queen, and those under her command. She’s the kind of person who – if she gave you her word – you could bet your life on her keeping it. She’s a very black-and-white kind of person, who struggles with shades of gray.

How would Kara describe herself in 50 words?
I’m nothing special. I have my duty, and I see it done. I expect nothing less from those around me. Do right by me and mine, and I’ll do right by you. Cross blades with me over someone that I care about, and you might not walk away from it.

Here is where Kara’s voice starts to come out. It develops further when I write up her background, but this is where it begins.

I return to these character sheets again and again over the course of the story to keep their voices distinct in my head.

Additionally, each of the characters comes from different regions. In the case of QUEEN’S WILL, we’re talking about different planets, but this works on a smaller scale as well. What you need to do is made sure that each character has their own unique speech habits. Their own cultural “Shorthand.” Slang and curses work effectively here, so do differences in religion/beliefs. You know, stuff that just slips out during times when you’re tired, or surprised, or when you drop something heavy on your foot. Each of those – especially what I’m going to call micro-expressions that just burst out – are so ingrained into a character’s personality that they can’t help but be unique.

I confess that it’s a bit more work than I thought it would be at first, but I believe that it’s work that is worth doing.

I’ll see you on Thursday. Be Excellent to each other.

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Weird Wild West

Trials

Chasing the Light

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