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.
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!