Oct 6, 2010

Character Voice

Can you hear your character's voice?

This week in my writing course through Sydney Writers' Centre, we further explored character and voice. 

The main point about your main character is they must be someone we like reading about. Your main character will need depth, they can not only exist in reaction to one situation. One way of building your character to a fully formed personality is to fill in a checklist. 

You should include physical descriptions, beliefs/attitudes to the world around them, personality, background, hopes, relationships, pets and environment. It is also handy to know what your character's skills are and what they are really bad at, or afraid of (these can be used in your plot as obstacles and solutions).

By knowing your character well before writing you are more likely to have a consistent character that the readers can believe in.

Our assignment was to have our character write their own autobiography as 'getting to know you' class homework. There were some fantastic responses. It's a great exercise because once you start, it's interesting to see how your characters will describe themselves very differently to the way you would. There may even be important information they choose to conceal. 

Here was my submission (even though I can already see things I'd like to change!):
Who am I? Harry Conner. I’m 13. I live in Warracknabeal, but you would know that Miss, because you live here too. What sort of things do I like to do? You might think there’s not much to do in a country town like this, after coming down from Sydney, but there's a swimming pool (I prefer the river - we’ve got a great rope swing) and a cinema (‘The Thin Man’ is showing if you like mysteries, I do).
I’ve got my mum’s red hair and I follow Essendon, like she does. We didn’t make it into the grand final last year but I think 1939 will be the year for us! You might find it funny but my father doesn’t like football (or anything fun). You probably already know that he’s the sergeant of police here in town. He is so different from my mum, she would have laughed at the prank me and the boys pulled last Saturday, but Dad got mad as a cut snake! See Brian, Duncan, Weedy and me were taking pot shots at chickens with my slingshot, when I had this idea. Old Mr Harrison’s funeral was on, so we snuck into the church beforehand and put this chicken in the casket with him. You should’ve seen Father Barry’s face when he heard scratching noises coming from the coffin!
We live in town, a few of my mates live out on properties like my granddad does, he’s the president of the club at the racetrack. He says I have his charm. Dad and him don’t get on real well.
My best friend is Clancy, my dog. When he was a pup he belonged to Mr Mulligan, but then Mr Mulligan shot his brains out when he lost his job at the silo (maybe he didn’t realise the Great Depression’s over Miss?). Now he’s my dog and he’s great, even if the oldies in town look at him as if he’s cursed (not Smithy at the butchery, he’s always got bones for Clancy).
My goal? I’m going to become a detective, like Sam Spade, and then I’ll find out what happened to Mum when she didn’t come back from the supermarket two years ago. I will, and I’ll bring her home.


  1. This is some very engaging writing. Thanks for posting your exercise on here. I've seen a lot of people recommend this type of exercise, but I admit I've only tried it once or twice. I know it works, though, so I should dedicate more time to doing it.

  2. Thanks Domey - I always find it takes me a long time to talk myself into writing exercises but they always end up being quite quick and helpful.

  3. That's a great view from your characters. I noticed the dog is named after your last name. That's so cute.


  4. You do a great job with his voice, Chamaine! Sounds very much like a 13 year old boy from several decades back! Interesting exercise! I may have to try this one--in prep for my WriMo, maybe...

  5. You are such a talent! I love the way you always share what you're learning. Thanks so much, Charmaine.

    P.S. I'm having a contest (international) and it's a book your girls might enjoy. Pop over and take a peek. :-)

  6. Clarissa - Thanks, he's actually modelled after my dad's last dog, who was Clancy before I met my hubby. He was just such a boy's dog he seemed perfect, but I keep forgetting it seems like I'm naming the dog after myself!

    Hart - NaNo! Last year I had everything ready to go at least a month beforehand, if I leave it too late I'll just end up re-writing a classic, maybe The Scarlet Letter, but with dinosaurs? Or maybe I should just start preparing. :-)

    Shannon - Cool! I'll be checking out Book Dreaming :-)

  7. I love this idea! You have great tips on how to dig up the details~