Giving Your Characters A Unique Voice

An important part of creating a character is allowing them to have a unique voice. This means that anyone reading your screenplay would instantly recognise which character is talking, without even looking at the character tag!

Having a unique voice is another piece of the puzzle in putting together a realistic character. A character should have their own vocabularies, accent, speech rhythms, mannerisms and world views. A lot of these things will depend on a character’s background. A character from Quebec might speak broken English, using French phrases as exclamation. Another character might use only the words absolutely necessary to explain what they’re saying.

He hit me. Hard. In the face.

Or they might ramble around their point.

Phil rambles

Of course when you are writing dialogue for a screenplay you want to keep it as concise as possible. If you have a character that rambles it might be best for them to do so in the background or have another character constantly cut into them. This way the action isn’t slowed down to a snail’s pace.

Characters all have a personality which should have an impact on how they talk. If you have a character who is shy they should probably rarely talk, and when they do it should be short, soft and non-confrontational. On the other hand your character may be an extreme extrovert, willing to give their life story to anyone who will listen.

Age also has a big part to play in a character’s voice. You should aim to have a wide range of ages amongst the cast of characters in your screenplay. This helps you create personalities that stand out more. If you write a script containing nothing but 21 year olds then a lot of the characters are going to blend together. Age also has a big part to play in the character’s world view. Take these two examples.

Young and old

Guess who’s the 16 year old girl and who’s the 72 year old woman. Pretty easy to tell from their attitudes to a boy band and the language and references they use.

The best way to get a handle of writing unique voices for characters is to widen your social spectrum. Talk to as many people as you can in your everyday life. You’ll soon pick up a bunch of stuff you can use to improve the your dialogue writing skills and use to flesh out your characters. Look for vocabulary, accents, slang, points of view, rhythms, openness and enthusiasm.

Before you start your scriptwriting it can be very helpful to write down a list of the characters in your screenplay and think of a few unique things about each character’s voice, to differentiate them.

Oli: Uses a lot of slang and aggressive language.
Wendy: Well educated with a strong vocabulary. Loves the chance to show off.
Sylvan: Speaks with a French accent, occasionally expresses himself using French phrases.

If you do this then you will soon notice the different flavor in each of your characters’ voices. Anyone who reads the script will too. As a result your script will look a lot more interesting a prospect to producers.

Keep yourself in check though, you don’t want every character to have some zany quirk or else it will distract from the story. If you stay subtle and realistic you’ll be on solid ground.

Even a simple goodbye can be said in a multitude of ways.

Signing off.
Goodbye readers, your loyalty is much appreciated.