Although NaNoWriMo is now over, the story is not. But at least now, we’ve got some time to polish it.
So, in the mad rush of NaNoWriMo, it’s perfectly possible (and indeed acceptable) that your characters’ voices may be a little bit similar to one another. Let’s have a look at how we can fix that! With this worksheet, we’re going to try to introduce a few key differences between the voices of your characters. The first way you can do this is by describing the characters’ voice when they first speak (e.g. Tim’s deep voice reverberated around the room; Mary’s shrill giggles pierced the air; Arthur said, his sing-song Welsh accent making the threat seem less threatening etc.). This is a good way of introducing some character to their voices. This is vital if you’re writing a screenplay, but in a novel there is a good chance that your reader will have forgotten about this by page ten (Honestly, the numbers of times I’ve been baffled by casting in film adaptations, only to look back and discover, oh, that character is supposed to be blonde…).
So, with that in mind, let’s look at a more substantial way of defining character voices: the words you choose. After all, that is the bit you’re good at, right? So, let’s say one of your characters is a Belgian dectective (I mean Poirot, okay?). Perhaps he has a habit of slipping back into his mother tongue during conversations (e.g. Oui, Monsieur; Not at all, mon ami) whereas the other characters would never do this. Poirot’s speech is instantly distinguishable from that of other characters, even without ‘said Poirot’ at the end of every line.
You can also do this in more subtle ways with characters sharing a mother tongue. Tag questions (“It’s a nice day, isn’t it?“) can give the impression that a certain character lacks confidence when used frequently. Bossy characters may talk more in instructions than opinions (“We will go to the shops before the party and buy a present” is stronger than “We should go to the shops…” and much stronger than “Should we go to the shops…?”).
And everyone has a few “personal favourite words” that they use a lot. One of my friends starts a lot of sentences “Yeah, no…” (“Did you see Tim earlier?” “Yeah, no, I saw him yesterday.”), one says “well” a lot (“The party was well good. I ate well loads of food and got well drunk. It was well late when I got home. Mum was well cross.”) and a third literally says “lol” if they find something funny. They don’t laugh. They don’t even smile. They just say “lol”. I find that friend a little creepy.
As always, don’t stress over it and enjoy!