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How-to Tuesday

How to Bring Your Characters to Life: Part 8 – Giving Your Character a Voice

Every week, we update our current how-to series about creating realistic characters, entitled “How to Bring Your Characters to Life,” providing a handy activity to help you turn your characters into realistic “people.” Last week’s post focused on your character’s physical appearance. This week, we will work on giving your character a unique voice.

Giving Your Character a Voice:

Now that you know your character’s personality, personal idiosyncrasies, and physical appearance, it is time to give your character a unique voice, literally! Think about how your character would sound when speaking aloud and give his or her dialogue its own unique flavor. Everyone has their own special way of speaking, including local slang, favorite idioms or phrases, and go-to expressions.

To help you get started, go back to our earlier activities and think about where your character is from geographically, and what ethnicity or background your character has. These things will help give you a jumping-off point to build your character’s speech style around. If your character is from a foreign country, maybe he or she answers the phone in their native tongue, or gives toasts in their country’s customary way. If your character lives in a major urban city like New York, Philadelphia, London, or Boston, maybe he or she uses a lot of the common phrases and slang from that area.

Your character’s speech might also be influenced by his hobbies. If your character loves Star Trek or Star Wars, he might choose to use famous movie or TV quotes in his everyday speech. If your character is an athlete, maybe she uses expressions like, “Go hard, or go home!” and “For the win!” Think about what your character likes to see if his or her phrases might be influenced by those things.

Activity #1

Research the style of speaking in the area where your character lives (also the area where he or she originally came from, if applicable). Take note of popular slang, common phrases, and the speed at which people from that area talk.

Here are a few helpful links. If these do not apply for the area where your character is from, simply use your search engine, inputting phrases like “slang in (insert area)” or “Popular phrases in (insert area)” etc.

Regional vocabularies of American English
Canadian Slang by Region
Glossary of Boston Slang

Activity #2

Listed below are some common occasions for dialogue in which your character might choose to use his or her unique type of phrasing or speech. Decide how your character would talk in these situations.

  1. Favorite Expression to Greet Someone Formally (a business associate or an elder relative, etc.):
  2. Favorite Expression to Greet Someone Informally (a friend or close family member, etc.)
  3. Favorite Expression to Use When Upset:
  4. Favorite Expression to Use When Surprised:
  5. Favorite Expression to Use When Happy:
  6. Favorite Expression to Use When Answering the Phone:
  7. Favorite Expression to Use When Saying Goodbye:
  8. Favorite Expression to Use When Confused:

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