How to Make Characters Sound Different

I think making characters “sound”, for lack of a better word, different when they speak is a lot harder in genre fiction than it is for other forms of fiction. If you’re writing  a story in the real world in the modern day, the reader can more easily pick up on how a character sounds based on region, ethnicity, language background and so on.

When you’re writing genre fiction, all of that goes out the window. The reader, at first, has no clue about this world. The various nuances of speech in this world become unfamiliar.

So how do we accomplish making character sound different without beating a dead horse?

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Making Unlikable Characters Likable

Literature is full of these characters. Characters who act like jerks, yet the reader still roots for them. If we encountered such characters in real life, we may not want them as friends, yet we like to read about them.

I’m using “likable” to mean different things, and it will depend on what you want to accomplish as a writer. We’ll discuss that too.

So let’s talk about different ways to make the audience “like” your unlikable characters.

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Writing Female Characters in Fantasy.

I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not to make this post. It’s a button pushing topic, but I’ve read so many writers talking about struggling with writing female characters and worrying if they need a “quota” or some other stuff, so I’m gonna talk about it.

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Introducing Characters (in Fantasy)

“In fantasy” is in parentheses, because technically this can apply to any fiction if you wish.

Character introduction, whether it’s in the beginning or middle of the story, is huge. It may seem small, but if your goal as a writer is to say “this person stands, out remember they are important” that can be harder to pull off than may seem.

But don’t fear. Let’s talk about it.

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Good Fantasy Protagonists.

In one of my writing courses in undergrad, my professor defined “Protagonist” as “The character that changes (the most).” Although not dictionary definition, I think that thinking about protagonists in this way is useful.

That being said many protagonists fall flat. Some of them are just silly, cringe-worthy, or a lot less interesting than the side characters.

Protagonists are important so let’s break ’em down.

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Moral Grayness in Fantasy

This is a trend in fantasy and personally, I love it. I love when fantasy is used in a way that the world isn’t black and white and that people aren’t black and white. No one is entirely good or bad. Fantasy does sometimes have a tendency to become preachy: “These are the good guys who save the world, ultimate power is bad.” and the like. Allowing for moral grayness can help create really compelling fantasy.

But what is moral grayness? How do you do it well?

Let’s get into it.

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Romance in Fantasy

There’s a lot of talk in writing circles about romance in any fiction. What is a compelling romance? What’s a bad romance? Why is it there to begin with? And so on.

Personally, I love romance. I think seeing how characters approach love and relationships can help flesh them out. But I also roll my eyes when I see it done wrong, come off as forced, doesn’t make sense, or feels rushed.

This is an issue in fantasy especially, I’ve seen. Romance is often thrown into a plot out of nowhere or for no reason that it feels fake and contrived.

So let’s talk about love.

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Compelling Villains in Fantasy.

Your main character needs someone or something to work against and that’s where villains come in. Villains are hard because people tend to start formulating their stories in terms of their main characters and then have to design villains to fit into that narrative. That’s not necessarily bad, but you need to do things to help ensure you have a compelling villain.

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Character Development in Fantasy: 101.

I say in fantasy, but much of this will be able to apply to other genres of fiction as well.

Characters drive story. You can build a setting, you can even create a plot, but with no characters to get from A to B to C and so on, you won’t have much of a story.

Characters are who the readers cheer for, the ones we hate, the ones we ourselves in or wish that we could be like.

You could have a brilliant plot, a brilliant setting, but if your characters suck, your story will suffer. That’s why we’re covering character development here. I’m going to avoid talking about a lot of super basic stuff or I’m going to gloss over it, but all the same, this may be helpful.

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