Had a great time with some friends who came over for dinner (we ended up grazing, not really “mealing”) and I started to compare notes with another author in the group, Julie Cochrane. Julie, if you don’t know who she is, coauthored the Cally’s War trilogy with John Ringo. She’s very smart and has a lot of salient points that I always seem to miss.
We were talking about the author’s voice when she mentioned that some writers don’t know how to write in a distinctive voice. I wasn’t sure what she meant, since every author has their own voice. I’m paraphrasing here because it was almost midnight when we were having this discussion, but the gist of what she was trying to explain went as follows:
It’s hard for a writer to have different characters in the same book have different voices. Sometimes they just don’t know how to separate the military brat voice from the non-military brat voice.
I wasn’t sure that she was correct at first until I started thinking about Tori and how hard it was to write some of her thoughts and speech patterns. See, everyone has their own distinctive style of speaking. For an author, the challenge is to differentiate the voice between multiple characters. This is part of being a writer, that “it” factor, that deciding factor which breaks off from telling a story and showing the story.
I’ll admit, Tori was a challenge. Showing the flashes of maturity as she struggled with her own desire to remain a child was a task I didn’t think I was up to showing. Plus, who wants to be in the head of a 16 year old girl? That is its own little hell by itself. But as I moved on into the story, I began to see that Raul spoke differently than Tori, and different than Dylan, and nobody talked like Gavrie. Jade had a different inflection in her speech, though there was some correlation between Tori and her dad, since she did learn to speak from him.
Language is hard to show in a book. You often don’t think about the difference between people talking when you’re writing a scene because in your head, you can hear the deep, resonating voice compared to the gravelly one. But your reader, unless you make it distinctively clear early on (and that, sometimes, can be overkill of its own), tends to have all the voice run together since in their head, everyone is different than what you intended.
So when you’re writing, do you have any techniques to use to remind yourself to make certain that speech patterns and word usage is different between characters?