James M. Patrick

The Author

Tag: Voice

Character Creation

Over the past several weeks, we have explored the basics of character creation and building backgrounds. I hope by now that we all are on the same page as to the importance of in depth character history in telling a compelling story. Today, we are going to take the first step in using the histories and bringing your character’s to life.

It Is How They Communicate

The number one manner in which people communicate today is the same it has been for centuries, talking. In the present say, that can also include texting or even writing emails, as in this context they are the same thing. How can that be, you ask? Well, no two people speak, text or write the same. Other than fingerprints or DNA, a person’s voice is what makes us all different.

Communication is more than the sound of a person’s voice, though the tone is included in the voice. Voice is the tone, tempo, vocabulary and even mannerisms one uses to communicate. Is the person speaking easily excitable, or do they gesticulate wildly with their hands and arms? Do they have an extensive vocabulary, or do they curse a lot? These are all factors that come together to form your character’s voice.

One of the best ways to examine the differences in people’s voices is a rather simple process many writers overlook. The art of listening. All too often, when we communicate with others we do not actually listen. Instead, we pay attention to what is being said while we wait for our turn to talk. Listening, or rather, active listening is a practice that can greatly enhance your understanding of communication and thus, the manner of your character’s communicating.

Next time are witness to a conversation or discussion (without being too obvious or creepy about it), pay close attention to the conversation and the actions of those involved. Watch how they half listen and find the point where they stop listening and simply wait for their chance to talk. Listen to their voce, tone and inflection as they explain a key point or reach the punch line of a joke. Study the manner in which people communicate so you can apply them to your characters.

Voice is Not Dialog

It is important to understand at this point that voice and dialog is not the same thing, though the two go hand in hand. In order to have effective and compelling dialog, the writer must establish their character’s individual voice. How is this done? Well, it is taking everything we have gone over so far; physical description, character history, experiences and even education come into play. This is where it all comes together.

How to Bring it All Together

This is where the magic happens. You have done all the work in developing your character, now it is time to bring them to life. How you bring your characters together is going to be different, not only for each writer, but for each character.

By this time in the process, you have gotten to know your characters and understand where they have come from. Now is the time to actually make them. Where have they have been and what they have done becomes the attitude in which they communicate. Their education and the lessons they have learned become the vocabulary they will use. Where they were raised determines if they have an accent and what type of accent they will have. It is even possible that your character has been raised poor and now that they are grown, they cover it by dressing as though they are affluent.

This is the actual fun part of character creation. This is where you bring them to life. Use everything you have done up until now to help you in the task. There is no right or wrong in this step, so long as your characters are and remain individuals with their own personality and voice.

Now that we have reached this point, you are almost done with the character creation process. The final step that we will be covering next week is the small, personal traits that each character has to further round them out.  So until next week, keep your pens, pencils and computer keys going and write your heart out.

Character Creation – Strong Characters

Creating Strong Characters

Last week, we discussed the importance of having strong and complex characters for your writing projects. We now understand the characters act as the medium between you as the author and creator and your readers. Without strong characters, your well thought out and executed story will simply fall flat to your reader. It takes strong characters to make your story memorable. This week, we will explore the elements of making those strong characters.

Playing Games

A few years ago, I began playing the table top role playing game Dungeons and Dragons. Now don’t judge, it is actually a lot more fun than you might imagine. It began as a request from my teenage son, who I believe got the idea from the television show The Big Bang Theory. He asked if I had ever played and when I told him no, he asked if we could give it a try. Being the father I am, I got the whole family involved.

If you have not played before, the first part of the game is taking a pre-designed character sheet, and creating your own character. From the race of your character (we are talking human, elf and dwarf here), their abilities, the way your character looks, and their history. Though we would eventually play the game, we were swept up in the creation process.

Creating a character for your stories should be no different. Becoming lost in the process, turning a blank page into what will be a living, breathing person should be thrilling, not simply a task to complete. Trust me, the difference comes through in your writing. Allow yourself to enjoy the process.

There are several aspects of character creation. Over the next few weeks, we will take a deeper look at each step, but today, you are going to have a look at the very basis of each.


If you take a look at where and who you are today, you will know that you simply did not become that without a lifetime of experiences and trials. If you were to become the character in a book today, how could where you have been simply be excluded? You have a lifetime of memories and stories of where you have been that make you who you are. Your characters are no different.

Very few books begin when a character is born, but every history begins with it, and sometimes even before that point. Who your character’s parents are, where they were born and raised and their experiences in life make them who they are where you book begins their story. Knowing those histories will help you develop your characters and also play a big part in making them and your story more real.

Why a Character is the Way They Are

Once you have a history, it is time to implement it into forming who your character is today. By taking their history, you will be able to explain why your character may have issues with commitment or trust, how they can walk through a door and know where every exit is located and be able to pick out who their threat in a room are. You can explain why your character has a prejudice for a particular people, or why they hate birthday parties. This is where you begin to form the aspect of who your characters actually are.


Do not be misled, this goes far deeper than simply the tone emitted when air passes through the vocal cords, though it is included. It sets the tone for your character overall. Is your character inherently sarcastic or overtly serious? Do they have a dry sense of humor or laugh at almost anything? Do they have expressive eyebrows or behave animatedly when they speak by waving their arms around? These are all factors in a character’s voice.

What’s in a Name

This is a topic that people either take very seriously, or take the Shakespeare approach, “What’s in a name?” Does your character’s name play a part in who they are, or is it just a name. If the meaning of a name plays a part in your story, such as Jeffrey being the bringer of peace, or Bella meaning beauty, then it is important to take care in choosing one.


The final stage of bringing your characters to life is the small things that make them human. Not only is this a physical description of height, hair and eye color, but include so much more. Scars, tattoos and even personal style also play a part. It is the little things that make a character real.

Now that we have a starting point and a basic understanding of where we are going with this series, I hope that you are as excited as I am to get started. Next week we will dig into what exactly a character’s history is all about. Just so you do not miss a posting, make sure that you subscribe to the RSS feed or even follow me on Facebook. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments, as I am always here to help., though it is easiest to contact me on Facebook, as I am on there nearly twenty-four hours a day. So, until next week, keep your pens, pencils and keyboard going and write your hearts out.

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