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.
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!