This is the book I used to find my "voice."
I write two series and I’ve produced a couple of standalone books. Switching from one protagonist to another can be a little tricky.
I’m preparing to write another book in The Bogey Man series, having recently finished with a book from the Sandi Webster series. Every character in every book needs to have a distinct “voice.” I found myself in a quandary. Would Pamela, Mrs. Bogey Man, end up sounding like Sandi?
If you write a series starring Jane Doe and a series with Mary Smith, you don’t want the two characters to sound alike and be interchangeable.
I decided to sit down and read some of one of the Bogey Man books to “get into voice,” so to speak. It struck me that because of differences in age, lifestyles and families, of course the voices would be different.
Habits are part of the voice, too. Sandi sighs a lot and occasionally rolls her eyes. On the other hand, Pamela has a habit of rolling her eyes frequently and only occasionally sighing. Sure, they can share habits, but only to an extent.
I, personally, both sigh and roll my eyes, habits I hadn’t realized I had until my husband called it to my attention. However, the characters aren’t based on me, other than having a few annoying traits.
There are some traits they can share because they’re things many women can relate to, such as eating chocolate because it’s comfort food.
As I mentioned, lifestyles can make a big difference between characters. Sandi and Pete have only recently married. Chris (the Bogey Man) and Pamela have been married for a few years and have a young son. Sandi and Pete look out for each other. Chris and Pamela have a son to add to their equation. It makes a difference.
Pamela’s husband is a Humphrey Bogart look-alike. He walks the walk and talks the talk. In other words, he uses old-time slang. Pamela’s character needs to fit in with him, but Sandi is too much in the present. Pamela and Chris own a forties-themed restaurant and dress the part. Sandi is a jeans and comfy shirt woman. Major differences.
In the two standalone stories, there were more differences. I couldn’t let the protagonists take on traits of Sandi or Pamela. They each needed personalities of their own and they needed fresh, new voices. I had to wipe the two series women out of my mind, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.
If you’re writing books with different protagonists, try reading aloud in the voice of each character. See if they sound alike or not. Better yet, have someone else read a piece from each person. You can make the words sound any way you want them to, but an outsider will read it the way it appears on the page. Does that make sense? I hope so.
So, now you have a few of my thoughts about voices. Any thoughts you’d like to share about keeping them separate and unique?
Until next time, think about the voices you’ve read in the books of prolific authors. Do they manage to keep voices fresh?
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