In this week’s edition of “Writing Mistakes“, we’re going to take a look at character voice, or inner dialogue. It’s a writing technique many people fail to use properly.
What does it sound like inside your head? Are you a Victorian-era gentleman, or a person who swears and curses every second word? Does your inner voice talk like a romantic novel princess, or are you a strong and confident Amazon warrior on the inside?
Here’s an example of “weak” character voice:
Balfour sighed with relief as he saw his friends sitting at the table. He was glad he had made it back through the trenches alive, and he hadn’t been noticed by the guards on duty. In all of his haste to return, he had dropped his coconuts into the pit.
Super boring, right? Nothing in that passage tells you anything about the character, what he thinks, what his relationship with these friends are, or even what his personality is like. It’s just super plain, milquetoast writing.
You don’t have to add “he thought” to everything, particularly if you’re writing in “tight” POV (from behind Balfour’s eyes). All of his thoughts are going to be included in the narrative, so you can show personality just by changing the way you write the character’s reactions to and thoughts in a situation.
Here’s a slightly better version of the passage above:
Balfour slumped into a chair next to Fat Harlin, who nodded at him. A slow smile crept across his face as he stared at Dark and Platt playing cards and ignoring him completely.
The walk through the trenches had been worse than a stroll down memory lane. Death had hounded him like a particularly persistent hound-like creature, but he blessed his gods that the snoozing sentries were too plowed to stir and take note of a single fool creeping through the mud.
If only he hadn’t been in such a rush to deliver the message, he mightn’t have dropped his blasted coconuts into the god-damned latrine pit.
It may not be sterling-quality writing, but it definitely gives you an insight into this character. All of a sudden, Senor Milquetoast from the first passage transforms into sort of a hick-type character who uses poor similes and curses liberally.
Spice up your character voice to show his/her personality, and it makes for a much better read!