Monday, 1 August 2016

Distinctive Voices
Things have been a bit quiet on here lately but I've reached a plateau. I don't want to make this a negative post so I'm going to appeal for your help! After arriving back from the RNA conference on a high, I set about re-editing my novel based on the critique I had received from the NWS and the 1-to-1 sessions with publishers and editors. I'd decided I'd put aside the month of August to re-edit the novel with the view to submitting it in early September.

The first thing I did was to go through the report again in detail and reflect on which points I agreed with. Whoever my reader was, I can't thank her enough for time taken to produce such a full and analytical critique. There are many positives in it; these points are spurring me on to think it's a story worth persevering with and trying to get the manuscript much better before submitting it. Most comments were easy to address and were quite specific - for example, an overuse of the word 'looked' or 'looking' on one page or a certain paragraph that was pronoun heavy in a particular chapter. However, one other observation is causing me more trouble:
'I think that the voices of Clara and Rose are very similar. The tone of their thinking and the way they act did not differ much......Could you make them stand apart in some way so that they are differentiated in the reader's mind yet still reflect the bond between them?'
I can see what my reader means and trying to make the two voices distinct from each other has been my main focus over the last week. When I wrote the first draft, I tried to make sure that Clara would use some sayings or slang from the '60s whereas Rose spoke more formally in 1947 but I need to take it further. For example, I've looked at whether Rose would address her father as 'Father', especially as he was a disciplinarian, whereas Clara calls him 'Dad.' I need to look at the way the two characters act and react and make sure they are unique in their own ways. 

Here are some other ways I've been considering: 
  • giving the characters a verbal habit or saying unique to them, saying 'umm', 'err'
  • varying the lengths of the characters' sentences - maybe, short, sharp stilted sentences to reflect one character
  • mannerisms such as fiddling with her hair, twirling it around her finger when she's concentrating
  • contrasting reactions to unpleasant news - for example, one could be a sulker/one a ranter
  • differing inner thoughts - does one keep thoughts to herself, and one more open and says what she thinks?
  • character traits unique to each one
Perhaps you help me here.  How do you make each of your characters unique and distinct from each other? All suggestions gratefully received! Thank you. :-)

Writing friend, Catherine Burrows, has recommended this book. It's very readable and details may be found HERE. Once I've got my protagonists' voices right, this is how I shall be spending my writing time during August. :-)

Thank you for reading. How will you be spending August? 

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.


  1. First things first, Jan. Get inside the head of your central character. Look through his/her eyes. Go somewhere quiet and try this as an exercise. (Much like virtual reality.) Close your eyes. Imagine your first scene. Walk through it with your five senses on full alert. You will be surprised at how this develops the responses of your supporting cast. x

    1. Thank you, Carol, for such good advice, especially the bit about walking 'with your five senses on full alert'. Thanks, too, for popping by to leave a comment. :-)

  2. Finding each character's individual voice is so important. It is one of the things that lifts a novel and makes it stand out from the rest. It isn't just the things that they say out loud. It's the way you express the narrative when in the respective character viewpoints. May I suggest 'Deep Point of View' by Marcy Kennedy, which is an excellent guide.

    1. More good advice, Sue - thank you. I like the sound of Marcy Kennedy's book and shall get it. From the write-up, it sounds just what I need. Thank you for leaving a comment. :-)