Here’s a new game I’ve been playing to help establish voice for each character:
change the font for their dialogue!
Hear me out. Yes, it’s pretty silly, and yes, it takes time (time that can affect the flow of the writing) to switch out the font for each character as you reach his or her dialogue.
BUT… if you can find a font that “looks” like how you imagine the character would write, then it becomes easier to “hear” how he or she would speak–and, most importantly, how his or her manner of speaking is different and unique from the other characters.
I’ve been playing around with it on a rewrite (I was calling it a revision, but I realized that I had to throw out most of what existed before and re-do everything with the same characters and general plot… so, it’s a rewrite) and it’s doing an amazing job of getting me into the heads of each character. Of course, it’s not a thickly-peopled book, so that helps; G.R.R. Martin would probably go insane attempting a similar experiment.
I started this activity to try to spur my lagging writing, but coincidentally, the book I started reading a few days later uses the idea, too. It’s called “S” or “Ship of Theseus,” co-written by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. The book itself is one story, but there are annotations included in the margins that are a separate, suspenseful story as well. One pen (who writes in cursive) is a female character and the other pen (who writes in capitals) is a male character.
The different writing styles correspond with their different personalities, voices, and… literal writing styles, I guess. Haha. I finished it this weekend–it took a while to read because I was trying to keep track of the real storyline, and the annotation story lines, which occur in different colored pens for different times–and loved it. The resolution was not as clear as I’d hoped, but what was I expecting from the dude who wrote Lost?? :) I still highly recommend the book.
I’m hoping this technique helps me keep better track of the voices of my characters. When I wrote my first draft of “Copper,” and dared to read through it after a few weeks off, I noticed how most of the characters spoke exactly the same as each other. Their dialogue was interchangeable… and that was bad. With the font-changing game, I hope to avoid that flaw (but will, surely, come up with some new one. Sigh).
Anyway, back to said rewrite…