When the Voice is Silent

   Posted by: Faith   in Rye Thoughts

What do you do when you can’t capture your character’s voice?

I’m having a bit of a conundrum. A situation, if you will. frustrated-writer

As some of you know, I’m rewriting my NaNo novel from 2009. It’s going swimmingly (despite the fact that I’m not a very good swimmer), and my main female character’s voice is set. Firm. Mercifully natural, most of the time. I’ve got her down (more or less), and where I’m having trouble with it, I can fix it with a few tries.


Halfway through the book… the narrator changes.

Er, if anyone from my critique group is reading this… heh. Spoiler alert. Sorry. BUT NOW YOU ARE PREPARED (and hopefully will throw fewer things at me…).

Without saying exactly who it is (for the sake of my crit group), the narrator changes to a teenaged male. I’ve written male characters before… so this isn’t my first time.

However, for some reason that’s beyond my ability to understand, I cannot get this blasted character’s voice right. First he sounds too young. Then too whiny. Then too juvenile. Then too stiff and lifeless. Then too forced.

WHAT DO I DO?!?!?!

frustrated-writer (1)If you’ve had this problem before, how did you solve it? Did you just write and rewrite and write again until you found it?

The issue isn’t having the right character to tell the story, either. I know this is the right person. He’s just… being difficult about it. Argh.


This entry was posted on Monday, September 19th, 2011 at 3:40 pm and is filed under Rye Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

8 comments so far


Pick up a book with a similar style to the way you want your story to sound and start reading it. It might help refocus the voice of your own character.

September 19th, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Thanks Stobby, that’s what I’ve been doing with my female MC, but for some reason, I can’t find a book that contains a similar voice for my male MC, so… no dice. It’s a really good idea though, and I use it often!

September 20th, 2011 at 11:57 am

Hi there, Hope you are well :-) If I’ve already introduced myself I apologise. I can’t keep up with who I’ve said Hi to and who I haven’t. I am in your YA Group. I’m just trying to catch up with everybody slowly but surely :-) .
Fab blog.
Eve x

September 20th, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Ha ha ha! So he’s being a typical teenage boy in other words?? Lol! My advice? Try to discreetly find a group of teenage boys and listen in to their conversation. The best way to get dialogue right is to listen to actual people actually talking. If this makes you uncomfortable, then I would see if you can find a movie starring a really well-written male teenager and listen to his dialogue.

Good luck!!

September 20th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

When I was writing my last novel, both of my main characters voices were SO HARD TO FIND. I thought I was going to go crazy! It was like pulling teeth trying to write anything! Usually when that happens, if I keep writing, the character’s voice becomes evident, but this took longer than ANY book I have ever written. I was literally 45,000 words into the novel before the characters “clicked” and I felt like I knew them, and their voices, and what they would do and say. It was so unbelievably relieving when that happened. I could have given up before then, and then I would not have the story I have now. But it just took persistence and “keep moving forward” for me. I’d suggest that you just keep writing until it clicks, or until you find what works and what doesn’t. You might never find out what doesn’t work if you don’t keep writing. It’s like with scenes: sometimes I have to write a scene three different ways to find the ones that don’t work.

(My narrators in this particular book switched halfway, too. By that point, though, I finally had both their voices down and the second half was much easier for voice than the first half.)

September 20th, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Ugh, I’m afraid I don’t have any useful advice on this other to keep going at it. Can you note down the basics of what you’re looking for and try to work out one piece of dialog to fit in different ways as a bit of an exercise? Otherwise, maybe a brain break? Good luck!

September 21st, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Wow, I really share your pain, and I know how well things flow when you have found your stride vs when you haven’t. Can’t offer too much useful advice but I do sympathise!

September 25th, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Two words: Character Interview.

I have a character like that who just kept coming across as a total asshole. Not that I’d mind that, except it kept looking as if he was one dimentional when I know he must be more than that.

So… I sat down and sat him down and we talked. I penned down the dialogue and kept referring back to it, because it caught his voice as well.


September 28th, 2011 at 3:59 pm