Writing Exercises

Author Aerobics: Character Voice Challenge

Here’s this week’s Author Aerobics challenge! Answers to the challenge will be posted on Friday. If you want to participate just post a link to your entry in the comments below and I’ll update this post with links to yours. Everyone’s welcome 🙂

Character Voice Challenge

Do you ever worry that all your characters speak the same or sound the same? There are a variety of techniques you can use to give characters a unique voice in dialogue.

One thing you can do is to model the character’s speech patterns on a real person or character. It doesn’t have to be someone you know. Pay attention when you’re watching TV. How do different characters speak?

Here are a few tricks I’ve observed being used in fiction. This list may be a bit mechanical, and it may feel like cheating, but these are a good starting point when you’re thinking about character voice:

  • A character that does not always finish his sentences.
  • A character that uses filler words when he’s thinking: uh, hmm, well
  • A character that frequently ends a sentence with a question.
  • A character that speaks in short sentence fragments.
  • A character that always refers to people using terms of endearment: hon, sweetheart, kid.
  • A character that speaks in long sentences and tends to ramble on.
  • A character that likes to finish other people’s sentences.
  • A character that throws in words from another language.
  • A character that swears frequently.

Voice also extends beyond speech. It’s also in the character’s mannerisms, and how they think about the world. If you are showing internal monologue or revealing a character’s thoughts, what do they focus on? Are there themes they keep revisiting? Do they have favorite phrases? How do they feel about other people? Answers to these questions will affect the way your characters speak and interact with other characters.

But a word of caution! Not every character needs to speak differently. Adding in too much dialect can make a story feel muddled and confusing.

The challenge: Write a scene 1000 words or less that shows at least two character who posses very different frames of reference, for example, a mother talking to a child, or a physics teacher talking to a student. This week’s theme? “Apples”

Those who faced the challenge:

First we have a fun little tale of a special kind of apples for sale. Next, we fast forward to the future adrift in space.

Shopping for Snow by Stephen Watkins

6 Comments to “Author Aerobics: Character Voice Challenge”

  1. I was musing on the theme of apples this morning, and then took myself aback and said: “wait… was that really the theme on this week’s Author’s Aerobics? If so, maybe I have a story. If not… I better not think too much more about apples, just in case.”

    1. Ah hah! My secret plot to invade the public’s collective unconscious is working! LOL it’s funny, just after I posted this I happened to read a story about apples on another blog as well.

      1. I had read this entry before, but didn’t think much about the theme… Later, I was getting my lunch ready this morning, and contemplating either an apple or applesauce,and some ideas for a scene came unbidden to mind… then I was just trying to remember whether I remembered right that the theme was “apples”.

  2. Mhm, I am so busy this week that I doubt I can make it, but boy that sounds like THE opportunity to explore the July novel project I have planned. It will be weird to have an apple themed scene, but who the heck knows. Maybe it will be a scene I will include in the novel.

    1. You don’t have to use the apple theme unless you want 🙂 I just like to throw in a theme to get the ideas started! No problem if you can’t make it right now. If you do get a scene up in the future, I can still link it back here.

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