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Speaking in tongues - Character voice

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, July 23, 2021

Designing memorable characters doesn’t just stop at their appearance. The manner in which they speak and use body language is integral to building a full picture of who they are as a character as well as how others react to them. Here are some tips on how to make your characters’ voice stand out from the crowd.

Body language and tone of the voice
When conversing with another person, we take note of how they are standing, where their eyes are and how they hold themselves. Do they have a nervous twitch? Are their arms crossed? How do they shift their weight when they stand? Comics have the added advantage of conveying this unspoken language through visuals so use that to your advantage. The way in which someone says something is highly important to the direction a conversation will go and it reveals a little bit of who that person is.

You can use vernacular in dialog
Dialog does not have to follow the rules of proper grammar because people sure as hell don’t. They take short cuts and use local slang, contractions and run on sentences. People are messy when they speak and the same goes for your characters. You can really put some detail and flourish into how they might talk to others because unless they’re an anal english major they are not going to be perfect.

Know your character’s background and personality
A character has to have started from somewhere and that somewhere will have made a lasting impression on how the character communicates with others. If the character is educated, they will be more likely to use longer and more complicated words when explaining concepts to others. Contrast this to characters from a lower socio-economic background; these types of characters may be more likely to use colloquialisms and simple language to communicate.

Understanding where your character came from can help shape the way they speak. Take some time to think about the area they are from, what sort of access to information they might have had and who their mentors could have been. This will all go on to inform the manner in which they speak. If your character is impatient, they may speak in shorter sentences or get frustrated when people take too long to explain something. Or take a shy character who finds it difficult to connect with others; they might not say much all the time but may become bolder when confronting something that triggers them. Getting to know who your character is and how/when they might speak allows you to build layers and depth as well as find potential points of conflict that can be used later.

What techniques do you use to create a unique voice for your characters? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!

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cdmalcolm1 at 2:54AM, July 24, 2021

When it comes to SolarCell, her past life vs. her current life are totally different from each other. Her past life is a cocky don’t take shit from anyone and is irritated by anyone who don’t agree with her or some of her views. Somewhat of a hot head. Her current self is almost opposite. Just don’t get her angry. When she lost her memory, her attitude change. She is more submissive and a bit shy. If she has highly respect for you, her shyness or submissive side starts to stand out. This is more because she second guess herself due to some of that memory loss. Writing both sides of her is like writing for two different people. At times it get tricky with her. The same goes for DarkBeauty. DarkBeauty Jamaican accent come to life when she loses her memory. This part of my character development for this story.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 12:38AM, July 24, 2021

Well, an example of mine is having Molly's eyes half-open a lot of the time to have her express coolness and sassyness. Goes hand in hand with her being street smart (having grown up on the streets of Port Hommerond and having long adapted herself to the going ons of the whole place) and being generally dispassionate (she's not easily impressed or easily swayed by opinons and intrigues).

PaulEberhardt at 9:10AM, July 23, 2021

One of my early setbacks was trying too hard to find the right amount of body language, ways of talking and interesting quirks, you know, not too much, not too little. They are important and can be used to great effect, but nowadays I avoid thinking about them very much lest they look too artificial. To my mind, it really boils down to knowing your characters really well - as you mentioned above - and staying aware of the situation they're in. For example, don't be afraid of varying the amount of slang and short-cuts. IRL people who speak a local slang, say, will do that too, adapting to who they're talking to (in linguistics this is called "code switching"). The same goes for body language and unusual habits. Of course all of this also depends on how cartoony you want the whole thing to be.

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