Who’s Talking? Not the Writer! Anybody but the Writer…

I just read a police procedural style mystery and throughout the novel I was struck by the voice — single voice — used by virtually all the characters in the book. It was astonishing. All the characters were insightful, honest and self-aware. They noted when they were responsible for bad decisions in the past and, in general, all sounded as if they’d spent a great deal of time in therapy. Back-stories were revealed immediately — without deception or even dissembling — and the cops were equally patient and intelligent in all their interactions with suspects and witnesses.

It was weird.

I kept reading, largely because I liked the setting and wanted to discover the identity of the killer. (That turned out to be a sleight-of-hand handling of a familiar gambit.) But toward the end of the book I read simply to find out if the killer would also speak with the same self-aware, insightful, been-in-therapy recollections of her past.

She did!

I was left with a couple of critical questions. One, how did the author’s beta-readers let this kind of dialog slide by? And two, how do I make sure that each of my characters speaks for themselves and not like me?

Boy oh boy…. I reread the first 250 pages of the novel-in-progress with this in mind and think I’ve managed to distinguish between the speaking styles of the cast of characters. Will I review for this critical aspect of storytelling again? YES!


    • Candy Korman

      YES! It does make me wonder. It was an otherwise interesting story, but in the end one has to balance CHARACTERS with plot to get the total picture, and dialog is a reflection of characters.

      Let’s ALL think beyond the linear!

  1. Ungh… I’ve read stories like that as well – lots of potential but everyone sounds exactly the same. I wonder if that’s what happens when the author focuses too much on the song instead of the singer[s].

    • Candy Korman

      Wonderful analogy — the song and the singers! The writer is often the “choral director” of dialog and should never lose sight of the individual parts that contribute to the total sound. I’m going to look carefully at my own work with this in mind. I don’t think I’ve ever made such an egregious mistake, but I may have been sloppy or lax in my scrutiny of each character’s voice. BOY OH BOY… work!