Sunday, October 3, 2010

How do you make character voices distinct?

So I'm deep in the trenches of my agent-requested revision.

One of the main things said agent wants to see in this revision is my second viewpoint character, Orlando, to appear much earlier in the narrative. She basically wanted to see much more of Orlando, as he's a pretty interesting character (paraplegic, wheelchair-bound gay boy, anyone?).

In the original version of FAKE, Orlando appeared about halfway through the narrative, in epistolary chunks. Journal entries, emails from him to the MC Jen, stuff like that. But what the agent wants is for him to have his own chapters right from the beginning, his own story arc right alongside Jen's.

So I've ditched the epistolary thing and I'm now writing new first-person POV chapters for him right from the beginning.

But the hard thing about this revision, so far, is trying to make Jen and Orlando's voices different. Before it was easy. Jen was first-person present tense, Orlando was writing in a journal. Very easy to distinguish who was speaking when you started reading a chapter. But now, when they're both first-person, how do I make them sound different?

I have basic things. For example, Jen is more pessimistic, swears more, uses more sentence fragments. Orlando is usually bright and sunny, and he categorizes a lot of things in threes (makes lists of pretty much everything). But other than that, I'm having a hard time developing a "voice" for him. Should he use less description? Be less "poetic"? Should I have distinctive chapter headings, like Chapter One: Jen, or is that too obvious?

I think I might be profoundly overthinking this.

What do you guys think I should do? I need heeeeelllppp!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a tough one! Well, I'm no expert, but my current WIP is from three first-person narrators, each having chunks in the MS. They don't run alongside each other, but here are some things I've used to help me out with different voices:

    -One character talks more to the reader than the others. He says things like "you're kidding me" and "I'm not lying" out of dialogue. The other two don't.
    -One is particularly angry at the his voice is pretty distinct.
    -I've actually decided which curse words each one uses (because one is more shy, so he wouldn't be as harsh)
    -And their senses of humor really set them apart too. It comes out in their dialogue and sarcasm. Some being harsh, over sarcastic, or even they think their jokes are dumb.

    Haha, those are just some things I've noticed I do when separating their voices. I hope it helped! And good luck with your revision, you're SO close! :)