Writer’s Craft #4 – Distinct Voices
“My biggest problem right now is character development, or, how to keep the characters from all sounding the same.”
A great challenge for any writer. Hope my examples below inspire you to comment with your own!
Well-established characters are easiest. It isn’t hard to spot the terribly-nice Amel in the following exchange from Pretenders (Part 3 of the Okal Rel Saga).
“Are you a real Soul of Light?” Eler demanded, a pout on his full lips and unshed tears in his eyes.
Amel passed over possible responses: the honest one, the glib one, the one that exposed the child’s hope of comfort and threw it back in his face. Instead he asked, very carefully, “Do you need me to be?”
Note how the internal aspect of Amel’s response contributes as much as his actual words. This can be equally true of associated actions but I’ll leave that to someone else to illustrate.
Distinct voices are harder to achieve when you are working with a handful of supporting characters. I cheat whenever possible by giving each secondary character an exaggerated trait or attitude. See if you can slap an emotional label on each of Corin, Hill and Zer Hen in the following bit from Righteous Anger (Part 2 of the Okal Rel Saga).
Hill exclaimed, too loudly, “Yes, sure!” He was still visibly shaken by the challenge card, but seemed equally determined to impress its bearer.
“Not too much wine,” Corin warned the others. “Not if you fight tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow seems a bit rushed,” said Zer Hen.
Your turn! Share examples from your own work, published or in progress, or from your favorite authors. Tell us how they illustrate keeping characters distinct.
E-mail your ideas for future articles to me at email@example.com either as a question to be illustrated by myself or with your own example. Please include CLARION in the subject of the e-mail. Thanks for taking part!