How to Make Your Characters Voices Differentiate From One Another

Character writing is one of the most important aspects to writing a book and is fundamental so a books success. Let’s face it, if Harry Potter was a bully, I don’t think I’d have been able to root for him and it would have made me less inclined to continue reading further. To make your characters realistic, they each need to have a different tone of voice to one another, much like humans do in real life! In this article, we’ll explore ways you can do that.

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What is their personality like?

Your character’s personality will play an important role as to how they sound like. For example, a shy character won’t be as outspoken as a confident character, and may mumble often when speaking. Explore what their personality is like first, and then think of the voices that accompany that personality.

Their backstory plays an important role

If your character has had to walk a difficult path, their tone do voice will be different to others who haven’t. For example, if a character was betrayed by a former lover, they may we weary of people of the opposite sex, which will affect the way they talk to those people. You don’t have to know their entire backstory, at least not when writing Your first-draft, but knowing what kind of past they had does help you to shape those characters.

Who have they been surrounded by growing up?

Not only will their personality and backstory factor into how your character speaks, but so will the people they have been surrounded by. For example, if your character has parents who are rough, football hooligans, then your main character could have a similar voicing structure. It could also be the opposite if they didn't get on with their parents. This ties into knowing their backstory, and knowing the people they have been surrounded by in order to differentiate this character's voice to another.

What kind of world do they live in?

If your character lives in a magical, usually peaceful, fairy world, then their character may be very calm, their voice soothing instead of someone who has grown up in a terrible, dodgy world who now might have a chip on their shoulder. You can delve deeper into creating the kind of world they live in, through world-building.

Make a list of word and phrases your character would and wouldn't say

Now, on a notepad or in a word document, create a table. On the left have words and phrases your character would say, and on the right have words and phrases your character would not say. Doing this fun exercise will help you differentiate your characters and you'll be able to get to know your characters better. A phrase of a bully could be, "Get out of my way, nerd!" and something they most certainly wouldn't say is, "I love your shoes!"

Tone of voice can be changed simply by replacing the word 'said' with something else.

You don't need me to tell you that you shouldn't be using the word 'said' after every sentence your character(s) says. Instead, you want to convey the tone of voice from them, and this can easily be done by using a synonym for the word 'said'. We spoke of how a less-confident person would be hesitant to speak, and maybe mumble when they do. Take a look at the below sentences.

"Hello," the boy said, twiddling his thumbs in the process.

"Hello," the boy mumbled, twiddling his thumbs in the process.

The second sentence conveys that shyness better than the first, simply by replacing the word 'said'.

Some other words for said are; grumbled, mumbled, uttered, voiced, stated, remarked, quipped, declared, questioned, demanded, ordered, asked, answered, commented, alleged, implied, repeated, claimed, argued, articulated, expressed, avowed. There are so many more! Take a look at this helpful resource: 272 Words to Use Instead of 'Said'.

What is their body language like?

Further strengthen the differentiation between character through the use of body language. Most of the time, our body language matches how we're feeling, or who we are. For example, a I don't think a princess would slouch. On the contrary, an assassin may slouch as they would have been used to fitting in small places, hunched over, to gather information.