Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hearing Character Voices

Sometimes I hear writers talking about how their characters tell them things. That hasn’t happened to me (yet), but it always makes me wonder how the character’s voices sound. You know how, when you record yourself speaking and play it back, it sounds different than you always thought?

I don’t often consciously think about what my character’s voices sound like. Are their voices high-pitched and squeaky or deep and gruff? It mostly doesn’t matter. I’ve noticed that when I read, I form my own mental soundtrack for a character’s dialogue, whether the writing describes it to me or not. I’ve always tried to avoid writing dialogue with accents or slang, again because of my reading preferences (too much is hard to read).

Lately, a few of my characters are developing accents when I hear their dialogue in my head. Weird, in a good way. Since it’s the first draft, I’m trying to record some of it, though I have no idea how to “write an accent”.


  1. I have an easier time hearing some characters than others. But I usually know how fast or slow they speak. In middle grades, I can usually tell you if a boy's voice has changed or not. I know who's quiet and who's loud. I know who is from outside the area the story takes place in and therefore has an accent. (Not an accent to a reader as much as an accent to the other characters in the story.) You probably know a lot of this for your characters, too. The hard part is getting that knowledge on the paper unobtrusively.

  2. I think some of my characters have a distinct talking voice and some don't. How one turns out one way or the other is a mystery to me?

    I don't usually make a big deal of pointing it out in my work unless it has some bearing on character or plot or some other aspect of the story. In one of my WIPs I have a character who isn't human, and I did mention some specifics about his voice because given that he's a made-up species, I thought readers might be curious about how he sounds.

    As far as my reading habits go, I often picture characters' voices and appearances in different ways than the author wrote them. I've even gone so far as to to imagine a character with one color hair when it said right in the book that his hair was another color. It wasn't that I hadn't read the description correctly, I think my brain just subconsciously ignored it.

  3. This is great! I usually can hear how my characters talk. They have all kinds of conversations in my head! Good luck with your conversations.

  4. Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

    Characters do indeed do strange things to our heads :) Hearing them is one of the joys of writing. Enjoy the insanity :)

  5. Kate, I struggle with even how much of that stuff that I know about the character I want to include in the book.

    Katie, I sometimes see characters a lot differently than they are described by a writer, I'm glad it's not just me. That's one reason why I don't like to include too many details about how a character looks.

    Christy and Tabitha, it does sound crazy sometimes to think of characters talking or having conversations. Luckily, for me they only do it when I'm writing (not teaching my class)!


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