How to Write a Character's Voice

Voice is probably the most elusive part of writing. Things like good grammar and structure can be taught, but finding a character's voice is something which a writer has to learn for themselves.

So what is voice? Quite simply, it's the way a character talks. When voice is done correctly, the reader should be able to figure out who's talking, even if you don't tell them.

For example, let's say we have two characters, Allie and Brian. Allie is very upbeat and talkative, while Brian is more reserved. Based off of this information, can you tell which one of them is talking in the following snippets?

1. "Balloons? Yes. I think they're out back."
2. "Did you see what he did to my car? There was paint literally everywhere! I got so mad at him ..."
3. "No way! That's so awesome! You totally deserve it -- congratulations!"

My guess is that it was pretty easy to figure out that Brian was talking in 1, and Allie was talking in 2 and 3. Brian's sentences are very short and to the point, while Allie's are longer and more melodramatic.

The difference becomes even more obvious when two characters are saying the same thing. Let's see how Allie and Brian would phrase, "Do you want another slice of cake?" ...

Allie: "Go on, have another piece of this! It's really good."
Brian: "More cake?"

Again, Allie used a more chatty tone, while Brian got straight to the point.

In general, the key to a good voice is that you have to know your characters inside and out. When you're writing their voice, you have to ask yourself, 'Is this something that my character would say?' Even better, imagine how your character sounds when they are talking -- their accent, their inflections, whether they use refined language or pile on the slang. Then, simply transfer that voice onto paper.

Now go forth and write awesome!

How do your characters converse?

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