Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Character Voice


I think getting character voice right is a hard one, particularly when you’re first starting to write a character. 

I’m in the midst of writing my aforementioned new project; it’s YA like most of my stuff and the main character is sixteen. However I’m finding myself questioning whether a sixteen year old would talk the way I’m writing her, and whether she really would be having the kind of thought processes that she is.

Let me explain some of the reasoning behind this self-doubt. My first novel, a YA also, had a protagonist who was sixteen. I was sixteen at the time of writing, so I didn’t really have any doubts about the voice. Then months and months later when I sent my novel off to some people for critiquing after extensive edits, a few people came back to me saying that the voice sounded far too old for a YA. One person even said my protagonist sounded like she was twenty six! Needless to say, that isn’t really ideal when writing for a teenage audience. 

So I’m putting it to you: what do you think? Should I go with my gut and write what I feel is right, or should I think more carefully about it? Also, have any of you ever had a similar problem? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

8 comments:

  1. I can't say I've been faced up-front with a similar problem, though I do sometimes doubt whether or not my character's voices are correct. For Evergreen, I feel that the youngest of the three sounds a little TOO young for her age, but then I was writing her as I looked at my sister who was roughly the same age as the character is. Hmm... I'm not entirely sure what advice to give you. I'm not even sure I know exactly what I'D do.

    Probably think of your gut feeling AND think very carefully, and if you're not sure which way to go, see if you can come to a place somewhere between the two. That's probably what I'd try and do.

    Best of luck to you!

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    1. I try to use comparisons too, thinking about people I know who are a similar age and how I sounded when I was sixteen, but voice is such a hard thing to pinpoint!

      Thanks for that, Bonnee! I think you're right. Perhaps I'll continue writing what I feel is right, then when it comes down to editing I'll scrutinise it quite a lot, or better yet let somebody who is around that age read it and see what they think. Two heads are better than one after all! It might even turn out that I'm getting all worried over nothing - I hope so anyway. Thank you!

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    2. Whatever you end up doing, I will work out for you. Just keep up the great work and stay motivated :D

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    3. Thanks! I'll try to do that. I'm sure you'll be hearing much more about this new project from me in the future!

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  2. I'm a big fan of listening to your gut, of course, my characters probably sound older than most 16-18 year olds. However, I think it can be tricksty to TRY to sound like a 16-18 year old and your probably better off, and sound more authentic, if your using a voice that feels natural to you.

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    1. You're completely right, Rebecca - it's hard to find that balance between sounding like a teenager and trying too hard to sound like a teenager! I'm glad to see you agree with going with your gut like Bonnee; I think that's the approach I'm going to take. Thanks for the advice, Rebecca!

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  3. Getting yourself into the headspace of your main character can be a challenge. I wrote one novel from the POV of a 30 year old man, and my critique group frequently had to point out where he sounded too much like an old woman (me!).

    I think most times it's desirable to write with the voice that comes naturally to you, even if that means a change in genre. As Rebecca says, *trying* to sound like someone else can result in stilted dialogue and narrative.

    Hope you're having a good writing weekend. My DH is away today and I'm about to hunker down for a marathon session on my latest WIP. :)

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    1. I've tried writing in a male POV before, and it is quite hard to find the line between sounding too feminine! It is a challenge, but I think when you get it right it can go amazingly well.

      Yes, I agree. Stilted dialogue is the last thing I want! It's better to go with my gut and work out the problems at a later stage.

      Thank you! I've been on holiday, so I've been taking a guilty writing break, but I'm looking forward to getting back to it now! I hope your WIP is going well, and I hope to hear more about it on your blog. Thanks, Carol!

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