I recently attended a workshop at a Central Ohio SCBWI meeting with middle grade author Dee Garretson*. She gave some good tips for developing character voice.
Just to clarify, people talk about several types of voice. One type, what Garretson refers to as authorial voice, refers to the author’s writing style. A while back I blogged some tips from Cathy Yardley for developing your own voice. Dee’s presentation focused instead on character voice, which is the style of a specific character in your story.
So on to the tips:
1.What kind of observations does your character make? What would that character notice about someone they just met, or a room they just entered? It would be different for a 12 year old girl than it would be for a middle aged man.
For example, if a character were to say:
“She was a German and made brilliant meatballs,” - Gideon, the Cutpurse
What impression do you get of the character? What kind of person would mention meatball making ability as a defining characteristic?
2. How does your character react to situations?
“I felt a drop of sweat trickle down my side like a spider and disappear into the waistband of my itchy, brand-new suit pants, which I hoped never to wear again.” -I,Q
From this reaction, we can tell the character is young and uncomfortable in formal clothes.
3. Word choices In the first example, change "brilliant" into “yummy” meatballs and you get a very different voice. There are also some good word choices in the quote from I,Q -- spider, for example.
“The fog hung over Booker Mountain like an old ragged coat.” - The Dragon Heir
If you change “old ragged coat” to “malevolent ghost”, again, you get a different feel.
How do you invoke character voice in your own writing?
*Garretson’s middle grade adventure book Danger’s Edge: Wildfire at Camp David will be released in September.