On Creating Voices

A big problem I notice with writers (both screen and page) is that all the characters have the same voice.  By that, I mean if you didn’t see the face or the name, you wouldn’t know who’s talking.  Conversely, sometimes writers try too hard to create separate voices and characters become caricatures.  Something both camps need to do is listen to people.  The words they use, how the use them, what words they don’t use, accents, stuttering, and so on.  All these things make eventual characters interesting, but it should flow organically.  When I’m at a social outing, I’m either one of the best or creepiest people there.  Best because I throw myself into conversations so I can learn to not be socially retarded.  Creepiest because I’m in observation mode and take in details… but that doesn’t look professional.  What it looks like is some guy staring at you and not saying anything.  But even that’s a great moment because I can see people reacting to an awkward situation.

Let’s take a simple sentence and see how we can change it for various sorts of characters.  “Hello.  How are you?”  I wonder what it’d sound like from a very friendly person…  “Hi!  I hope you’re doing ok today!”  Someone mean.  “What the fuck do you want?”  Batman.  “Is Gotham quiet tonight, Commissioner?”  Gollum.  “What sort of tricksy thing do you have for us today, Precious?”  A drunk.  “Yo!  You wanna… you w–  How are ya?”  A prostitute.  “Hey there, gorgeous.  You feelin’ good?”  Freddy Krueger.  “Well, well… looks like fun tonight.”  A tortured poet.  “Greetings on this abysmal day.  What pain doth thou wretch upon my hide?”  A grandma.  “Oh, sugar, you came to see me today!  I’ll get us some soda and cookies while you sit by the window and tell me how the world’s treating my grandbaby.”  A tyke.  “Hey.  Hey.  Hey.  Hey you.  Wanna see my dinosaurs?  I gots dinosaurs today.”  Cancer patient.  “Oh hi, hi!  I’m taking things one day at a time, but how are you?”  Mexican immigrant.  “Buenos dias.  How… que… how are you?”  Flamboyantly gay man.  “Hel-LO!  If your day’s anything but fabulous, I don’t wanna hear about it and we are gonna make it BEYOND beautiful for you, honey.  But not in that.”  Chill lady.  “Hey.  ‘Sup?”

I could go on for a long time, but you get the point.  So next time you’re at a party and someone’s staring at you, they’re probably a writer.  Or a stalker.  There’s no real way to know, actually… oh!  Approach them.  If they look at you nervously, they’re a writer.  If they run away, get a good look at them and warn everyone.

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