Monthly Manuscript Makeover – Two of My Characters Sound Like Each Other

I had an enquiry from Kat who is writing a young adult novel in multiple points of view, and was worried that two of her character’s voices sounded a bit similar. They are both written in first person.

This has happened to me, and my tips are based on what I did to fix this in my own manuscript.

  1. Write a single paragraph summary of each character – something to really capture their essence so I could clearly distinguish them in my own mind. You can even do a table to show how different they are. For example:
L M
cautious bold
dreamy focussed
thinks before she speaks forthright
optimistic pragmatic
family orientated family orientated
loyal loyal
lives in a bit of a fantasy world truth seeker
believes best of people realistic

If you look at the key characteristic/s of your characters by doing this, you will see they are both very different.

  1. Look at how each character speaks. You can show differences in the length of their sentences, their word choices, the actions that go with their words, their speech patterns (do they pause a lot or is their speech free flowing?), their mannerisms, their thought patterns.
  1. Think of a situation – it could be one from your novel. How does/would each character react in this situation? It’s likely that both your characters will react in different ways. This will help you understand their differences, and convey this in your writing.
  1. How each character thinks is really important. Try to look at things through each character’s eyes, from their point of view. This will also help you understand their differences. For example, if there were an ‘anti-war demonstration’ in your character’s town’, would they go? How would each of these characters view war? Would one volunteer to fight and the other not? Would they both be opposed to it? Would they both volunteer? Characters are like people. They don’t think the same way on everything.
  1. Try rewriting part of your character’s point of view in third person, if you haven’t done so already. This will help you step outside the character a bit and may enable you to see and learn new things about them. It will enable you to see how they interact with others, how others see them, and what their place in the story is.

I hope you found this helpful. If you have any tips on how to make a character’s voice distinct from another, feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

ABOUT THE MONTHLY MANUSCRIPT MAKEOVER

If you’d like to get some feedback on an excerpt of your manuscript, Here’s what you have to do.

  1. Send me 200 words of the manuscript with your question or outline of what you need help with OR
  1. Alternatively, you can just send me the writing question itself. For example, “My main character isn’t very likeable, what can I do about it?”

Email your 200 word writing piece or your question or both, together with a paragraph about yourself and a paragraph about your work in progress.

Also, if you’d like to see a blog post about a particular topic, please feel free to make suggestions.

Email to dee*at*deescribe*dot*com*dot*au

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2 thoughts on “Monthly Manuscript Makeover – Two of My Characters Sound Like Each Other

  1. The choice of specific words may differ between characters, particularly if the age or education level differs, and some characters have verbal ‘tics’ that help identify them. (These may take the form of specific words, phrases or exclamations that are often repeated, or ‘Um’s, ‘Ah’s or other fillers. Also, differences in personality can influence their language. eg. One character may be a little prudish, using only ‘clean’ language, while another character may use more colourful language or words that shock. In addition, they may refer to other characters by different names – eg. one of them has a nickname for everyone while the other does not.

    However, there are times when the problem can’t be solved. In PIROUETTE (published in 2014), a story about identical twins who change places, I realized even before I put pen to paper that I wouldn’t be able to tell this story in first person – for that very reason. Since the girls were the same age and lived in the same city, an alternating first person narration would have been very confusing for the reader, especially since the twins had to sound alike for the swap to work. Because of this, I chose to tell the story in third person.

    Still, the twins’ personalities were very different, and what they said and did reflected this. Dee, thanks for inviting input.
    Good luck, Kat!

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