I’ve been thinking a lot about narrative voices lately, prompted in part by a book where the characters were strong but their voices all sounded a little same-ish to me. They might have been speaking and acting in unique ways but their voices – which take in thoughts and personality and experience and so much more than just dialogue – felt a tad monotone. It diluted my experience of an otherwise powerful story.
Elsewhere on this site I’ve posted about reading your work aloud to see how the sentences sound. It’s also a good way to hear whether the dialogue sounds real. Would your characters actually converse that way? To create authentic voices, you need to listen … and then dig a little deeper.
There’s a snatch of dialogue in the song below (approx 2 mins 53 secs) where the master storyteller Paul Kelly gives us the words of Queenie, one of the title characters. It’s only a handful of phrases but, based on my experience with indigenous Australians, it’s enough to get a real sense of character and voice. To my mind, that passage is the heart of the song. Where the friendship begins.