As we continue our lessons on CHARACTER – today, we are going to address a sticky topic.
Every writer has a distinct voice. Sometimes it takes years for the writer to find and cultivate their voice, but it’s there—underneath many layers of writer-ly skin that needs to be shed. Once you have found your voice, it has to be taken a step further. It’s important to remember that your characters each need a distinct voice. (Otherwise, you might as well just narrate the whole thing, bore the reader to death, and be done with it. J – No Pressure.)
Some of you might be scratching your head and wondering what I’m talking about.
Let me give you an example. Say your hero is a mountain climber. He’s tough. Rugged. Spends hours upon hours, day after day—alone. On the sides of mountains. Now, your heroine is a florist. She spends all her time arranging flowers, speaking to customers, and using her creativity to make something beautiful.
Your mountain-climbing-hero—for the most part—couldn’t care less about the best flowers it would take to complement the pale-pink-blush of the rose buds that your heroine-florist is using in her centerpiece. Likewise, your flower-arranging-heroine isn’t going to know/understand the difference in handholds, footholds, free-climbing, and rope-climbing.
Mountain climbing can be dangerous. Life or death.
Floral arranging is more creative.
So… your characters’ perspectives will be different. They will look at the world with different eyes. Their speech will be different—unique.
Taking it a step further: Stereotypically, men aren’t huge talkers. Their answers to questions are often-times “yes” or “no” – women, on the other hand, could answer a yes-or-no question with a twelve-sentence response, describing every detail or the how or why of the simple answer “yes” or “no.”
In other words, if you have a mountain-climbing-hero who’s noticing all the different kinds of flowers growing on the cliffs as he’s climbing—it’s not going to ring true to the reader. And if you have a flower-arranging-heroine who knows everything there is to know about belay devices, crampons, and rappelling—that’s probably not going to ring true either. Why? Because your characters are different. They NEED to be different. They need to think different, talk different, see the world… DIFFERENT.
Men aren’t going to know all the shades of red. They won’t know all the different kinds of fabrics that are layered into a woman’s dress. Women aren’t going to see all the risks lurking around each corner. They won’t be as apt to think about the weather and how it would affect a golf game, or who played 1st base for the NY Yankees in 1952. (I know this is all stereotypical, but it’s almost always true. Make it real for the reader.)
Here’s the real crux of the matter. They need to be written in their POVs different.
Men need to sound like men. Women need to sound like women. Study books where the characters jump off the page because their POVs are so distinct. If you are a woman writer – I suggest you study other women authors like Susan May Warren in her Christiansen family series, and any of Ronie Kendig’s books to see that women can write men well. These two, best-selling authors are amazing in their POV writing. (And I adore them both as friends.)
So… your assignment should you choose to accept it:
How would you write these characters’ POVs? How would you make them different?
With pen to paper,