There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Creating Voice in Fantasy January 9, 2013

Hello Readers!

I am so excited to be talking to all of you today! Voice is a major part of any sort of writing, but especially important for YA because readers in this area are drawn more to character than they are to the plot at the onset of a book. So, the best way for you to get an edge of your YA fantasy? Voice. But what is voice? I asked agent Julia Churchill this question once during an ask agent on Twitter and she gave me an answer I really like. She said it was the DNA of your character.

At first I was like, what does that even mean? But after sitting and thinking about it for a bit I realized it means it is the makeup of your character. If you think about it, everything that has made you who you are today contributes to the way you talk to people and think about yourself. The same can be said for your characters. You are training to create a person, well that person would have a backstory, people they love, things they hate, a favorite song, or a band that as soon as it comes on the radio station they would turn the channel. All of those little nuisances make your character have a voice, make them a real person.

Now you may be thinking, well that’s nice but I write fantasy and they don’t exactly have radio in Narmidlam. That’s okay! That is what makes creating your characters in fantasy so much fun. To create a fantasy character voice, you do the exact same thing, but in their world. If your character is a princess who hasn’t seen a sword or a day of work in her life, she wouldn’t be happy about being forced out of her pretty princess clothes and into a suit of armor, she would complain, probably loudly, and that would be a small facet of her voice. If your main character is a farmhand whose parents hate him, he would probably see the world through bitter eyes, making condescending remarks either in his head or out loud about parental love and support. Heck, he might even have a fear of being in love. These things sound like character development, and in part they are, but they contribute to how your character thinks which then contributes to how they speak.

In short, you are creating a baby-one that is already grown up with a history that makes them who they are. Don’t ignore that history, let it bleed into the world through their eyes.

Good Luck!



5 Responses to “Creating Voice in Fantasy”

  1. EM Castellan Says:

    Back when I had no idea what “voice” was, someone gave me the advice to read the opening of several books I like, to compare how they “sound” and to think about what makes them unique. A great book with a great voice is the book you think has personality, although you can’t really put your finger on what makes it so special.

  2. You know you’re doing it right when you tell which (main) character is speaking without character tags. Their language choices or formal / informal, how verbose they are, or commonly used filler words / slang can also help. I particularly liked what you said about letting their history bleed out into their world.

  3. kathils Says:

    I participated in a really interesting exercise once: write a piece using nothing but dialogue and see if you could differentiate between the characters. There had to be at least three characters involved. It was challenging, but fun. How the characters themselves spoke, how the others spoke to or about them, all added to shaping them.

  4. Voice is such an important part of story-telling, in my opinion. If the book is third person and the narrator is too dry, I am automatically turned off of the book. Same thing for first person and too whiny. I think it is very important to make sure there is balance with the characters. The characters should be dynamic, which means their voice should be as well. (This is why writing first person is so hard for me, by the way–I am never satisfied with my character’s voice.)

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