I struggle with giving each of my characters a unique voice and while I realize there are books and articles covering this, I don't feel like my characters have a great voice. Can anyone offer any tips or insights?
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I struggle with giving each of my characters a unique voice and while I realize there are books and articles covering this, I don't feel like my characters have a great voice. Can anyone offer any tips or insights?

* Read your screenplay out loud.
* Imagine each character as a friend or family member whose voice you're familiar with.
* Write each character with a specific actor in mind, and try to hear it in their voice.
* Rewrite like crazy. Don't lie to yourself that something's working if you can hear that it's not.
* Over-write. Exaggerate every emotion, every stance, every statement. Force your characters into extreme views that you, yourself don't hold. You can always pull back from an over-written piece, but you'll find it harder to push forward from a tame one.
* Prime your emotional pump with the kind of voice you want to hear. Read "Trainspotting" or some Jane Austen or Charles Bukowski or whoever's voice you'd like to hear in your own dialogue.
Alan Brooks

A with an Underwood
Dialogue Hard
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I struggle with giving each of my characters a unique voice and while I realize there are books and articles covering this, I don't feel like my characters have a great voice. Can anyone offer any tips or insights?

Do you mean dialogue?
If you do, you have to listen to a lot of it and write a lot of it.

Before I start any story I'll normally write pages of my characters talking to each other. Nothing else. Straight dialogue.

Be selective of what you listen to. Two girls in a mall saying: "Like, you know" to each other over and over again, isn't going to help much.

Consciously differentiate the dialogue. If you have two characters talking, and you can't tell who's who when you remove the character names, they aren't different enough. (You have exaggerate on real life. In real life people often sound a lot alike.)
One easy short cut (at least when you're developing the characters) is to have one talk in longer sentences and the other one talk in shorter sentences.
Usually, my characters don't really pick up their own characteristics and speech patterns until about 30 or 40 pages into the script (story). Then when they start to click, go back and rewrite the first 30 or 40 pages.
Good luck.

Paulo Joe Jingy
"I just couldn't live in a world without me."
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p.s. If you're not freaking strangers out in public places by talking to yourself, repeating almost the same thing but in slightly different ways, over and over again, you're not working at it hard enough.

Paulo Joe Jingy
"I just couldn't live in a world without me."
p.s.s. When you're really into it, you're no longer at your desk, your with your characters, writing down what THEY'RE saying.

(Am I scaring you yet?)

Paulo Joe Jingy
"I just couldn't live in a world without me."
p.s.s. When you're really into it, you're no longer at your desk, your with your characters, writing down what THEY'RE saying. (Am I scaring you yet?)

p.s.s.s. "...you're with your characters" Arrrggg.

Paulo Joe Jingy
"I just couldn't live in a world without me."
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I struggle with giving each of my characters a unique voice and while I realize there are books and articles covering this, I don't feel like my characters have a great voice. Can anyone offer any tips or insights?

Do a staged reading of your script. That's what the pros do. You'll be amazed at what people will think is funny that you didn't, and vice versa. There's a whole chapter about this in one of my books.

http://tinyurl.com/yfe45sd
I struggle with giving each of my characters a unique voice and while I realize there are books and articles covering this, I don't feel like my characters have a great voice. Can anyone offer any tips or insights?

It's very easy to become lost in surface stuff when you're talking about "voice" and by surface stuff I mean things like accent and background rich, poor, Northern, Southern, city boy, country boy.

And yes, obviously those things are going to affect the "voice" of your character to some degree.
But that's not the fundamental stuff.
What I'm talking about is the difference between personality and character.
Personality is the gloss. Character defines the fundamentals.

Let me explain this way.
You could easily write a villain that is dour and aggressive and pugnacious but you could also just as easily write a villainous character that is cheerful and outgoing and loquacious sort of a hail-fellow well met.
You could just as easily write a hero that is either of those two things. That's because those describe "personality" not character.
"Character" within a story describes the fundamental need or more often the conflicting needs that drive a character through the story.

The interplay of someone's fundamental need and what stands in the way of his achieving it that will define his character. That will determine what he does, how he does it what he says, how he says it. It will set his agenda in each scene and cohesively across the story.
I've read countless scripts where you don't know who's who, where you've got scenes where everybody sounds the same.

But the fact is, you walk into a bar in some neighborhood somewhere everybody grows up in the same part of town, they've gone to the same school, they have the same ethnic and cultural background. In that sense, they're all going to have the same sort of *voice.*

What distinguishes between them, when you write such a scene successfully is that they will not have the same reasons for being there in that place at that time. When each person has a clearly defined reason that we understand a need that brings them there and that drives their continued presence in the scene.

That need defines character. That need defines voice.

NMS
"Paulo Joe Jingy"
p.s.s.s. "...you're with your characters" Arrrggg.

That should be p.p.p.s.
post-post-post scriptum

Martin B
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