Sunday, July 03, 2011

How to Create Voices for Fictional Characters

Many writers struggle to create unique and realistic dialogue for their characters. Dialogue can help show a character’s personality and background. Once a writer masters the basics of dialogue, such as punctuation, he or she should focus on learning to make their dialogue more natural. One of the key elements to writing truthful dialogue is to have each character’s voice be unique and identifiable.

Listen to People

People are naturally familiar with the way they speak, so when beginning fiction writers try to create dialogue, it often resembles their own speech patterns. One way to become more attuned to the voices of others is to take a day to people watch. Find a busy public place to sit down with a notebook and listen to the snippets of conversation nearby people are having. Pay attention to the cadence and word choice.

For writers that are uncomfortable listening to strangers, they can also make an effort to focus on how their friends and family members speak.

Study Published Works

Every writer has authors, books, and characters that inspire them. Find a few of these books and study them. Spend time taking notes about what the writer did to create distinct voices. Read the best passages a few times, paying attention to how the author translated speech to the page.

A favorite work of fiction can also be used to practice dialogue writing. Try writing a conversation between two favorite fictional characters. Try to make the voices sound true to the style of the original author. Writing fan fiction like this can actually help a writer develop their own skills by spending time writing in another voice.

Read the Dialogue Out Loud

Dialogue is meant to be spoken. After writing a passage, try reading it out loud to make sure it has a natural feeling to it. Does the line sound like something the character would actually say?

Brave writers may want to share their dialogue with a friend. Getting a second opinion from a neutral third party can help to assess if the dialogue sounds natural. A friend can also let the writer know if he or she has put too much of his own voice into the passage.

Keep Dialect to a Minimum

Few novel writers have an extraordinary talent for writing dialect. Many new writers make the mistake of adding too much. Choose one or two words in a sentence to change. This way, the writer will get a sense of how the character speaks without having to struggle to understand what they are actually saying.

Effective, unique dialogue can only lead to a more interesting novel. A well-written character can be identified even when there are no dialogue tags. Remember that fictional characters are people too -- just people that don’t exist yet.

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