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Exercise: Your Character's Distinct Voice

Journal Entry: Thu Oct 11, 2012, 8:22 AM
The purpose of this exercise is to see how much you've differentiated each of your main characters' voices from each other.

How to Use

Pick a few major characters in your story. (I recommend using between 3 and 6.) For each of the numbered prompts below, choose what each character would say in that circumstance. You may want to write a few sentences of dialogue from that character or a quick internal monologue.

These lines are meant to generate short pieces of dialogue (about 1-5 sentences), as it's easiest to compare lines to each other that way. If you start writing long paragraphs or another character's reply to your character, then stop. Copy and paste the text. Then place it in a Writer or other document and continue the scene there. If you like it, post it (and credit me for the prompt, if you please!). When you finish that and return to this exercise, write about 1-5 sentences for that character and continue. Link to the expanded version if you'd like.

Here are a few ways you could format replies to each prompt:

Roleplaying (RP) Form

This is much like a script, with the actions in asterisks. It's a favorite among many deviants, especially because it's the most streamlined form.

Rose: Um, excuse me... *scratches back of head* Could you please tell me where the recital hall is?

Loose Script Form

Actions are in italicized parentheses. This is ideal for deviants who are worried about being mislabeled as roleplayers.
Many scriptwriters choose to write the names of speakers in all caps, but I wouldn't recommend it, since your lines are pretty short here. If you have a lot of characters, your readers may get headaches.

Rose: Um, excuse me... (Scratches the back of her head) Could you please tell me where the recital hall is?

I wouldn't recommend using a traditional prose form, as that's too clunky for our purposes.

While it's tempting, try to avoid describing too many actions. Actions are not part of voice, so too many actions may disrupt your concentration when you're reviewing and focusing on voice.

Modifying the Exercise

If you find that a particular of the exercise does not match your world, feel free to edit it to better fit. For example, if your world has no cars in it, then a question about a bird hitting a car windshield could be changed to a bird hitting a window.

You may not be able to modify all questions to fit your world. If this bothers you, you're welcome to mark it with an asterisk and make a footnote to say "This situation is not technically possible given my characters/setting."

Most of the prompts mention other characters. If the unnamed character is acting like one of your characters (whom you're not using for the exercise), then feel free to add that character's name to the prompt. It might also help you envision your characters' responses. For example:

Another character (Ellow) is hosting a party and...

If it might not be the same character for each person, you're also welcome to mention who did the action through the character's response. For example, if I think that Rose's mom might have done a particular action for her, then Rose's response might begin with "Oh, thanks, Mom!"

If you can't imagine any of your other characters doing the action, then assume it's some random person who apparently knows your character.

Without further ado, let's begin!

The Exercise

Please ignore the incorrect usage of the word them. The text became very cumbersome when I typed him/her all the time, so I've lapsed into colloquial diction for smoothness' sake.

This exercise is split into two parts, since it would take a while to do both parts from start to finish (and if you posted them together, virtually no one would take the time to read it all). There are twenty questions; feel free to divide them into smaller pieces if you please.

PART I: HIGHLIGHT THE FOLLOWING You'll see another bold note at the end of the exercise so you can quickly copy and paste.

1. Another character asks your character to come to a birthday or other party... in honor of a person your character doesn't particularly like.

2a. Your character has a big due date coming up soon and is trying to finish their project, but another character keeps coming and bothering them.

2b. Even worse: this character is >not leaving.>
(Note: The italic tags are broken for your convenience. Delete this note upon filling out.)

3. Your character comes home after a bad day to see that one of their friends or relatives made them their favorite food as a surprise.

4. Your character is lost in an unfamiliar city, and it looks like they'll need to ask a pedestrian for help.
(No, they don't have a cell phone or any other method of escaping this.)

5. Your character notices that a friend or relative of theirs is sitting on the stairs, crying.

6. Your character wants to go do something fun, but someone reminds them that they must clean the house... before the guests come over this afternoon.

7a. Your character is walking through a public place when they notice that a creepy-looking man keeps watching them.

7b. A while later, they notice the same man watching them again.

8. Today is another character's birthday, and your character is about to present them with a gift. Your character then reaches into their bag/purse/pocket and discovers that the gift isn't there.

END PART I/START PART II Part I is over—Thank you, and remember to link back!

9. Your character is about to leave the house in the morning when they realize that they are snowed in.
(Snowed in: when there is so much snow covering the ground, you can't even open the door)

10. Another character spills warm coffee all over your character's shirt, then immediately begins apologizing.

11a. Your character has been babysitting two young, hyper siblings for a friend. After many long delays, the children are finally ready for bed and ask to be tucked in.

11b. They also want a goodnight kiss.

12a. Another character recently hosted a party and has leftover cookies (your character's favorite kind). This character notices your character and offers the cookies to them.

12b. A third character notices this and seems disappointed because they haven't gotten any.

13. Your character is alone in a room of someone else's house, and they accidentally knock over a vase of flowers. The vase falls to the floor and shatters. The host/hostess hears the sound and enters the room, immediately noticing the broken glass.

14. Your character is driving (or sitting in the passenger seat) when a bird suddenly hits the windshield with a loud smack.

15. Your character is attending a formal dinner party (of their own free will or not), and a well-dressed and unfamiliar man decides to talk to them about finance.

16. A young child drew a picture for your character and wants to show them.

END PART II Exercise is over—Thank you, and remember to link back!

You're done! Now save the file and open a new tab on the internet. Look at some cool art, comment on your friends' new deviations, or fav bomb my gallery (hint, hint). Then after a while, come back to this exercise and re-read it. Ask yourself the following:

~How different are my characters' reactions?

That's probably something you automatically noticed as you read. Some characters were happy to share the extra cookies, while other characters pretended not to notice the person who wanted some. Some were comfortable with asking a stranger for help, while others avoided the possibility at all costs.

Now look at the nuances of the responses. This will show you the voices.

~How polite were they?

~How casual were they? How elevated was their diction?

~How fluent was their speech? Did they trail off, stammer, or hesitate? How comfortable did they sound in various situations?

~Were their responses typically long or brief? Were they ever unnecessarily so?

~When they were happy, sad, irritated, afraid, etc. how did these emotions manifest themselves in their speech?

~Did they speak very differently in different situations? Did they sound very different among strangers than among friends? (This is especially common in shy people.)

~Did their responses sound abrasive or warm? Could the person(s) whom they were addressing have misinterpreted them easily, or did they make their meaning clear?

Ponder these questions. Type out your answers if it helps.

Now re-read your exercise again, this time covering up characters' names and seeing how accurately you can guess who said what.

~Were you consistently unable to tell two characters' dialogue apart?

If two of your characters sound startlingly similar, don't panic. You still have time to develop them. Map out their similarities and differences on a piece of paper. That can help you if you want to go back and distinguish them from each other more in your story. The questions above can also assist you in developing their unique voices.

And remember: sometimes people simply do sound similar. In some circumstances, my dad and I say would say things that are nearly alike. One of my friends and I have a few of the same mannerisms in speech, which makes some of her habits eerily familiar. Non-eccentric characters especially may sound similar at times, and that's normal.

It's up to you to figure out how distinct each character's voice should be. One fun thing to do can be to run your characters through this exercise when you first create them, and then do it again once you've worked with them for a year or two. You may notice some growth!

Now go have fun.

:star: Sample Filled-Out Exercise

Fun fact: My little sister Katie picked out the characters on the preview image. They're all ones we use for playing when I babysit her. From left to right is Alan (an intellectual), Christy (a cheerful little girl) and Princess Rose (Katie's Mary Sue).

Copy and Paste to Credit Quickly!

<a href="">Exercise</a> by :devluna--rose:

<a href="">Exercise</a> by :iconluna--rose:

I have no stamps because I couldn't find any relevant ones. :stare:

Luna's Links
The OC Exercise by *Kitsunechann is a similar exercise built for longer prose responses. Check it out!
6 More Situations by ~BluTehKirbyGirl
Side by Side - Your Characters is a short essay on the value of talking to your characters by ~ashcro85-writing
~Start-Writing-Club offers many similar prompts

:bulletblue: More Writing Resources

Nobody Loves My Character!
On making characters lovable, in your story and online
Brought to you by Super Editor

Disclaimer: This is a troubleshooting guide, and it doesn't necessarily cover every possible solution. It's based on my own experience, and not every idea may fit every character or work. Please use your common sense and personal taste when applying this information. Thanks for reading!

It's every writer's nightmare: your characters, after all the things you've put them through and all the months or years they've inhabited your head, have been eagerly displayed to the public and received an unenthusiastic response. Your audience has not been enchanted. The
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InfjBarb Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2017  Student Writer
Ayy, I used it. Writing Exercise - Character Voice

This was really fun to use and everything, it helped me look at my characters in a new light, it also helped me with imagining my character's voices in my head a lot better. No doubt this will make writing easier. Keep doing what you do, 1111/10
Obelis Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Looks useful! Going to do this exercise immediately!
TabeaBD Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I finished the second part, in case you were interested!
Writing Exercise: Character Voices II
TabeaBD Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for sharing! :hug:
Angel-Fields Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This sounds awesome for organizing all my characters for a creative writing project I just started!  I'm not going to post the exercises anywhere, but I'm just letting you know I'm going to be using this to help organize my characters anyway.  This is super helpful!  Thanks! ^u^
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome! :hug: I'm glad this can help.
asdflove Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2014  Student Writer
I used this over on Tumblr (don't worry, you're credited, I linked back here and tagged you in it)…
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the link!
Wonderland-Rebel Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2014   General Artist
I might do this, but I will not post it as I mostly keep my characters private. Just to let you know I may use this resource.
Tevo77777 Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2014  Student Writer
Oh crap, this could be a problem. 

Must, make characters not part of propaganda state that makes them all talk the same....
MetaPaint Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This is really fun :) P.S. Love your art
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! :heart:
Flagged as Spam
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the compliment, but spamming isn't looked kindly upon here, nor is promoting the idea that people's own bodies are the enemy.

Hey, readers: spam bots are getting more intelligent. Keep your eyes open, and remember that a little (or a lot of!) cellulite can't stop you from being beautiful. :)
Si1verwing Featured By Owner May 22, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Actually, the word "them" is a grammatically correct gender-neutral pronoun that can be used in reference to one person.
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Really? Where did you read that? Everywhere I looked said that it wasn't considered formal usage. :)
Si1verwing Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I thought it was common knowledge. You know, like in school when you didn't know who your teacher was going to be, and you thought to yourself "I hope they're nice".
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I believe that it's common for informal situations (such as day-to-day conversations), but not considered formal English. :hmm:

Maybe it'll turn into standard English eventually; we really need a gender-neutral pronoun anyway.
DeiSophia Featured By Owner Edited Mar 7, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
No, Si1verwing is correct. However, it can't take the place of pronouns, like "he" or "she", as it is categorised as a reflexive pronoun. More specifically it's a reflexive pronoun that refers back to a person of unspecified sex. 
e.g. 'I've never had a friend get so mad with me that they turn off their phone'
Here the friend could be male or female, so the reflexive pronoun "they" is used.


"A learner who is weak at reading finds reading difficult, time-consuming and unrewarding, so they spend little time reading"
Here "they" refers back to the learner, who again may be either male or female. This example is taken from my teaching textbook to show you that "they" is definitely used in formal contexts as well!

Pronouns are generally not markers of register, so they are used in both formal or informal speech.

I hope this explanation helps!
zerozamination Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2013…

had to. Totally HAD TO. :la:

This is a wonderful exercise. I have tons and tons of characters, so I might come back to this sometime :)

StoryMaker91 Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2013  Hobbyist
BiCOV Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Thanks! This is a very useful tip. :)
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome! :huggle: I'm glad to hear that.
rokulie Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You have a lot of great memes/exercises! I've done this one tonight as well: [link] (Well, the first part. I'll analyze it after I do the second part.)
Grumpy-Old-Snake Featured By Owner May 28, 2013  Student General Artist
I gave this a shot, and it is quite fun--it is indeed easier to recognize patterns in the way they speak this way. Thank you! Here's the finished (and, sadly, mutilated--I'll have to retype it) first part: [link].
KurtExpress Featured By Owner May 20, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Can't wait to try it out. Thanks!
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner May 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome. :aww:
AngelicusCadere Featured By Owner May 5, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
I should be reading Rousseau's «Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men», and here I am doing this exercise.
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner May 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Well, we all need study breaks...

...especially when reading writers such as Rousseau. ;)
AngelicusCadere Featured By Owner May 15, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
You sure are right, but now that I'm done with Rousseau, I must say it was much easier to read then what I had expected; it was even pretty interisting. Compared to Platon and Rabelais, Rousseau is even fun XD
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner May 18, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Awesome! :aww:
Otaku-Seraph Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Part one: [link]

This is very helpful. Thnx for making it! :D
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome, and thanks! :huggle:
Otaku-Seraph Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
No problem. c:
legendary444 Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012
[link] here if u wanna check it out i tried it
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the link! Portraying your character at different ages is a really interesting idea. :aww: I never would have thought of that!

Sorry about the late reply. ^^;
legendary444 Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2013
:) thanks alot :)
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome. :huggle:
Arrieva Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Great exercise! I'll try this after figuring out who more of my nanomango characters are. ^^;
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! :aww: I hope you enjoy it.

Nanomango? :?
Arrieva Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
It's like NaNoWriMo, except drawing 30 pages of comic in 30 days as opposed to 50,000 words of novel in 30 days. It's really fun!
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh, cool! That does sound fun. :D
SketchyRae Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2012
I love you. o-o
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you. :hug:
SketchyRae Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012
You're welcome~ >u<
Terrajaide Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2012
Looks like fuunnnn! :D
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
It is (at least from my experience)! :D
Terrajaide Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012
Lol, yeah, I was doing them for one of my characters, but I've only done one so far so I'm not sure yet how different my characters really are. XD
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Sometimes it helps to let them sit for a few days and then come back to really analyze them. :) I'm sure it'll be fun to look at the results!
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