Give Your Characters Voices

Last week a few instructors from Full Sail’s English department did a public reading at Urban Rethink, which is located near downtown Orlando in Thornton Park. The readers were Karen Price, Brett Pribble, and Amy Watkins-Copeland. It was delightful to listen to three of my talented co-workers read their work in a public setting and I noted many things about their individual styles. One of my favorite parts of the reading, though, was hearing how my co-workers gave their characters different voices and how the characters’ personalities came through.

I started thinking about my own characters and the voices I give to them. One of my biggest worries when I turned in my thesis at UCF was that my male characters all sounded too similar to one another, and I knew without a doubt that my female characters sounded very similar to one another (they all sounded just like me). I was assured by my thesis committee that my characters all sounded different enough, but I had to test it out for myself, so I did the only thing that made sense. I read all of the stories out loud.

I tried to resist shouting all of the words with insane glee and crazy eyes, though.


It’s amazing how different your writing sounds when you read it out loud. Sometimes reading out loud can give you confidence in your story that might not be there when you read it silently. Sometimes reading out loud can highlight issues in the writing that you need to work on. I often tell students to try reading their work out loud just to find grammatical and spelling errors, but I find that reading out loud also really helps define voices for fictional characters.

Next time you’re working on a script or a story, read it out loud just to listen to the voices. Record yourself if you have to (I know, it sounds horrible. No one likes to hear his or her own voice). You might even consider having a few different people read your work out loud to you to hear how the voices sound coming from different people.

The thing about writing is you sometimes have to do things that make you uncomfortable in order to get the story just right. If you try this method, please let me know how it turned out for you!


About Jaclyn Sullivan

I'm a full time Instructional Designer and a sometimes adjunct professor of English Composition. I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida and I'm a published fiction and non-fiction writer. Check me out on LinkedIn: I'm a big fan of post-modern literature and swear by the lessons of Kurt Vonnegut. Some of my favorite writers include Lorrie Moore, Antonya Nelson, Grace Paley, Flannery O'Connor, Louise Erdrich, and Raymond Carver. I like Tom Waits, Andrew Bird, actual birds, pictures of cats, actual cats, animals in general, polka dots, exercise, iced coffee, reading, writing, tv-viewing, the Internet, and food. I dislike rain on days when my hair looks good, sweating, t-rex arms, public bathrooms, books being made into awful movies, and when The Walking Dead is on hiatus.
This entry was posted in Posts by Jaclyn and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Give Your Characters Voices

  1. I completely agree, Jaclyn. I suggest having others read your work out loud, too, to see if they read it the way you intended or if they bring something else to the proverbial table. -Catherine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s