Hello again from the edge of the void. It’s been awhile. Today, we are going to rehash some material from the last post and I’ll be covering how to craft distinct character voices. A strong command of this technique is crucial for writing character-driven stories in first person, especially if you alternate between characters.
I’ve been very busy with Nefarious. Volume Two is slated for launch on 6/30. If you haven’t already, grab a free preview ** here! **
“The straw-colored cloud would sink to the mud and form the shape of a lifeless man without eyes. His bloated jowls would quiver, his body quake with violent retch, and I would awaken, coughing and bleary eyed.”
I’d also like to give a special thanks to Amanda Heiser for featuring my short story, The Nightmare, on her blog. You can check it out **here**
“His name is Morpheus. He rides into my room on an anemic, ebony mare, her skin stretched over sharp ribs, maggots crawling in a stringy mane, eyes aglow with sinister intent. They smell like the dust of bones, the rot of corpses, the fear that swirls everlasting in Hell.”
And with all that said, on to today’s lesson.
A few weeks ago, we covered ***character motivation through backstory*** and how that drives conflict. If you have characters with their own unique backstory that informs their individual motivations, they will naturally start driving conflict.
Now, how is it possible to give these characters their own distinct voice?
First, you must establish the persona, or the character’s personality.
But Lucille, personality is so multi-faceted and complex!
Why yes, it is; however, there is a simple way to do this.
Give your characters different values and polarizing, annoying habits.
Carl Quagmire doesn’t value the importance of hard work; instead, choosing to indulge in liquor and binge watch Netflix every Saturday and Sunday (annoying habits). Carl likes to take it easy and have a good time (values). He lives for the weekend because he hates his job (backstory/motivation).
Wally Workhorse is Carl Quagmire’s roommate. He works on his side hustle every weekend in the hopes of giving himself and any future children he may have a brighter future (values). Wally Workhouse is this way because he came of age during an economic crisis and doesn’t trust that good paying 9-5s will always be available (backstory/motivation). He always worries about the state of his employment and bank account (annoying habit).
Carl Quagmire = lazy Pollyanna with a drinking habit
Wally Workhorse = fearful, negative, slightly draining in large doses.
Do you see how putting these two in a shared living situation can be cause for great drama? Since they have such different values, can you also see how easy it is to give them a distinct voice? Their habits, i.e. the drinking and worrying, can drive conflict and gives you, the author, some material to work with that will spice up the interactions between the two.
Some of you may consider yourself “pantsers,” and I don’t want to get into a values debate about which is better. I used to consider myself a pantser, and still do when it comes to short stories such as The Nightmare, but I find it much easier to craft longer works of fiction through planning.
Those of you who are pantsers, I suggest you give these formulas a try. Come up with a short scenario like the one above between Carl and Wally. Feel free to leave it in the comments.
Readers want real characters. They want them in 3D.
To date, the easiest way I’ve learned to do this is by fleshing out a backstory on each character. By doing this, I am able to find out their values, motivations, and get creative by giving them irritating habits. Once I have a cast of characters with distinct, real, and life-like personalities, I stick that shit in a blender and I give the readers an entertaining story. This is a very simple exercise and you would be surprised how much it can help move your story along.
Good luck and I hope to hear from you.