Welcome to Writer’s Corner, your one-stop shop for writing exercises, resources and general all-around advice. We have spoken to authors and industry professionals, seeking unique tips and unusual tricks to help you ignite that spark in your writing. These might be tips on the writing process or trade tips on how to get published. Whether you’re a children’s author, a short story enthusiast, a novice or a pro, we’re sure you’ll find something to invigorate your own writing process. Each blog will provide quick and easy-to-follow advice for any kind of writer, but of course, we advise you to choose the tips that suit you. We know there’s a lot of help out there, but we hope that we’ll bring something different to the table, to help you smash through those brick walls and write the story of your dreams.
Today we’ll be looking at a character. Characters are the single most important part of your story. They hold it together; they give it structure and form; they drive it forwards. They are the lens through which your readers explore the world that you have created. In short, your characters must drive your story, rather than be led by it.
To help you avoid this common mistake, we have compiled some exercises to help you discover and create characters that scream off the page and breathe with life. Today, we’ll be looking at the voice.
To begin this exercise, you will need to know:
Your characters’ names, ages, physical appearance, family backgrounds, the type of work they do, fears, loves, hatreds, desires, education, political affiliations, social class, etc, etc. These are the bare bones of your characters. They are facts, and whilst they are crucial, they do nothing to create characters with minds of their own.
To help you along this long and bumpy road, try this simple exercise.
Exercise 1: Developing the voice
Get inside your character’s head. Write a letter from them, to you. It doesn’t need to fulfil the purpose of a letter, but must establish the character’s voice. It may be useful to think of it as a stream-of-consciousness. What language do they use? Would they be inclined to swear? What terms of expression are repeated? What are their habits? Their fears? Addictions, regrets, guilty pleasures? What gives them courage? How do they see the world? When was the last time they laughed? What is their most vivid memory? What did they dream about last night? What annoys them? Makes them laugh? What urges do they have? The main thing to achieve here is a credible voice. Let your characters be honest and frank, and let them reveal their innermost secrets. Read the passage aloud after, and correct any parts of the text that don’t quite sound like phrases your character would say.
Try this for all of your main and supporting characters. Don’t spend more time on your favourite character. If anything, spend more time on your least favourite, or the character you’ve explored the least.
Once you have cemented your character’s voice in your novel, you will have created a solid foundation onto which you can build a story driven by people that feel real, and to allow their actions to lead the story, and not to be enslaved by it.