I love writing from different perspectives. Both my YA series—The Timely Death Trilogy and Bad Bloods—are written in first POV but from two different speakers. I love using this technique for novel writing, because I enjoy first person, but I dislike how it restricts the storytelling to one character, especially when a scene would be better from a different perspective. So, I have two protagonists, and of course, there are complications that come along with this. What’s the most common question I am asked?
How do you make each voice unique?
I’ll provide a few aspects to keep in mind, but of course, this journey will be different for every writer and every novel. First, know that every character should have its own distinct voice. A reader should be able to open the novel and know who is speaking immediately. This is more difficult than it sounds, but it can get easier over time.
The most obvious change between one voice to another is their unique perspective. What is their background? How do they feel? Where were they educated? Are they affecting the words, or are you? It’s important that characters have their own voice, and that voice will come out in combination with their personalities and backgrounds. For instance, your character who is a fashion designer would definitely use specific colors and fabrics to describe clothes, but your mechanic character might not.
2. Pay Attention to Diction and Syntax
Just like authors have their own “voice,” so do characters. Because of their backgrounds, characters will have different vocabularies. One character may use very flowery language, while another may have less of a need to elaborate. Consider their education, where they come from, and what they might know. The way they speak should differ, whether they are talking out loud or explaining the scene inwardly. Sometimes, syntax can be used to emphasize certain speech patterns, but be careful not to overuse syntax. Too many exclamations or repeated habits/phrases can become tedious and boring rather than unique and fun. Sometimes less is more. Little clues are normally enough.
3. Consider Rhythm
Honestly, I think rhythm is often overlooked, but paying attention to subtle changes in sound and length of sentences is important. One character’s thoughts may drag on, so their sentences are longer, while another might make short lists to contain their thoughts. Like everything making up your character, a person’s rhythm will depend on their personality, background, and goals. It could even change from scene to scene, but consistency is key.
One of my favorite exercises:
Write a chapter in which the two characters are talking. Write it from POV 1, and then, rewrite the exact same scene from POV 2. Check to make sure the dialogue and the physical actions are the exact same, but then, compare the thought process. How did the scene change? What does this change mean? Do they each bring a unique perspective? And out of those perspectives, which one is best to use?
As an example, two people can be talking and Person A could notice Person B is fidgeting. Person A may assume Person B is nervous, but when you tell it from Person B’s perspective, you learn that they are distracted, not nervous. These little bits can truly morph the way characters interact. I always encourage this exercise when starting out, even if the writer isn’t planning on telling from another’s perspective.
This exercise helps me understand the characters, and I feel more confident when I move onto a new scene. (Sometimes, it even helps me choose which scene to use…and worse case scenario, you have an extra scene to release as an extra for your readers.)
Have fun and good luck!
Original posted March 31, 2013
Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE across all eBook platforms right now! (And I’m dutifully working on the next installment, too!) Happy reading. 😀