As I work on Airstream, my middle grade science fiction novel, I’m working to create distinct character voices. This is especially important because, as is so often the case with speculative fiction, I have a larger cast of characters than I normally work with. It is also tricky because you meet one group of siblings and then, five chapters later, the second group of siblings.
Not only do I have 6 characters to keep track of, I also need to make sure that they don’t sound alike. Here are three things that I do to give each character a voice of their own.
Consider Who They Are
The first thing that I do is consider who my character is. I’m not going to summarize all six of them for you but instead will focus on two key characters.
Ada is 11. She is a scientist, obsessively loves to learn, and is an introvert. She isn’t shy, so she is outspoken, but prefers to be alone or around only a handful of people. Team work is not her thing.
Jaxon is 17. Jaxon is a natural athlete who loves little more than competitive sports. He’s a fair student but prefers school for the social aspects. He is loud and boisterous but reigns it in when he’s around his sister.
Create a Unique Vocabulary
Once I know a bit about each character, I consider their vocabulary. Ada peppers what she says with science terminology. She sounds “brainy.” She also has a tendency to sound combative because she knows she is smarter than a lot of people.
You might also expect Jaxon, the competitive athlete, to sound combative. But he’s a team player. Ada tells other people what to do. Jaxon discusses what “we” should do as well as what is good for the group.
Read Dialogue Aloud
Last but not least, I read the dialogue aloud. Remember that dialogue is speech spoken aloud. While you never write exactly the way that people actually speak, you want dialogue to flow and sound natural unless you need your character to sound stilted. Reading the text aloud helps me to hear each of my characters.
Use these three tips to create and hone unique voices for your various characters. Soon you’ll have a cast of independent characters, each with something to say.