Writing Blog – On Character Voice and Perspective

I know I said I wasn’t going to write a blog today, but I just got the best compliment probably I’ve ever received. I was told by a reader that For Steam And Country in terms of prose, writing, tone looked NOTHING like Star Realms: Rescue Run. The reader couldn’t believe it was written by the same person.

How is that a compliment, you ask?

Here’s why, and here’s what’s important for writers:

I’ll note it wasn’t about the quality of the work, as the reader said they are enjoying both. It’s all about drilling into a perspective for a character. I actually spend a lot of time and work thinking about the character ahead of time, planning things out, coming up with details of their lives — especially with perspective characters. This gets repeated at a lot by folk in writing classes, but you really should know the little things like “what will this character say if they bump their knee on a coffee table when they get up in the middle of the night?”  Those little things, and being consistent with them, make for a good character that feels more real to a reader, allowing them to connect.

If you look at my lead female characters in Star Realms vs. For Steam And Country, there’s some similarities but major differences:

  • Joan is ex-military, therefore she’s had a very rigid and formalized training structure, where Zaira has grown up all on her own on a farm.
  • Zaira grows her own food, has a pet animal, and is also a LOT younger (16) so still has a little “bright eyes toward the future” element about her.
  • Joan relies on an AI for a lot of her work, being from a futuristic society, not as much in with the manual labor elements of a fantasy society.
  • Zaira’s got a best friend pal she’s grown up with and is dealing with hormonal changes in how she views that relationship.
  • Joan is more educated than Zaira is.

These all seem like very easy to make observations that won’t impact much, bjut it will inform the way they talk, act, and think. Zaira uses shorter sentences with less of a vocabulary — and that includes outside of the dialogue as the book is writtien her perspective. She’s also more excitable and more prone to emotionally react in the way she narrates.

I start with these differences in the draft, and i go back and do a special editing pass just for word choices, sentence structures, the way they talk to make them feel like a unique person, thinking about the curses they use (or don’t), phrases and sayings that they utter, it’s all very important and it shapes their stories.

Hope this was helpful to someone out there! Right now I’m in the middle of wirting about a man who grew up in a religious institution who has a body filled with nanites that create weapons and armor to his will. I bet you he’ll feel even more different than these two gals do 🙂

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