Monday, August 12, 2019

Changing a Character's Voice is Hard Work

Imagine you've typed along for weeks/months, building your world and populating it with unique individuals.  You've got a whole book.  Maybe more than one.  And suddenly, you realize this one character isn't as unique as you thought he was.

This hasn't been a problem for me.  Characters pretty much pop out of my head onto the page and I leave them as they are.  I haven't seen a reason to change any of them after they were already birthed onto paper. 

Then came Thomas... who popped into my head almost fully formed when I first started writing Ugly and the Beast.  But he was too much like another Thomas in another UF series.  So, he became Oliver.  And I wrote the whole book with Oliver being Oliver.

Except after I was finished and starting to write Cinder Ugly, I noticed a lot of other books had characters that were a lot like Oliver. 

Hit the brakes and hit the wall.

I'm too far along to completely change Oliver.  He's a cat.  He has to be a cat or there are several... tons... of scenes that don't work right.  He has to be a black cat - because I already paid for a cover with a black cat on it. 

Okay, I can do this.  In my head, I've reworked Oliver into Kazimir - an Eastern European aristocratic cat.  No biggie, right? 

Wrong.  I can't seem to get his voice to stick firmly in my head.  My head still wants him to sound like Thomas... err, Oliver.  And he's not.  He's Kazimir.  KAZIMIR.  Kaz-i-mir.  (Maybe if I keep saying his new name, it'll stick.)

I think I need to immerse myself in people speaking with that particular accent until I hear Kazimir talking in my head.  Right now, he's this bizarre snooty British/Russian/Geico Gecko with attitude and slang.  So, that definitely needs to change or it needs to be consistent.  And I need to make sure he doesn't sound too much like Grigori from the genie books. 


Like I said, changing a character's voice is hard work.  But no one promised any of this would be easy.  And if they did... ROFL... right.

Now I just need to suck it up and move forward with this.  Maybe I'll sit down with my trusty notebook and have a little conversation with ol' Kaz on paper until I can hear him in my head. 

Ever have this problem?  If you're a reader, have you ever run across a case where the character's voice wasn't consistent?  Did it bother you as much as it bothers me?


  1. I'm with you on that. I have a new series and I've struggled with character voice in it. It's definitely not easy!

  2. Shifting a character is always hard! And the way you described him? Now I'm hearing a character from a series who is a "black Volhv"--which is a Russian witch of the male variety who serves a dark god (ie. he does black magic). His name is Roman and he's hysterically funny. He uses this sort of fake Russian accent and...well, I'll be channeling Roman whenever I read Kaz now. You'll find the right tone and voice fpr the critter. Would you like me to send him a set of interview questions? That might help you find his voice. Just let me know.

    Okay. Obviously home from the road trip/funeral. Took a break in updating back list books. Time to get back to it since I'm sort of past nap time. 😜 Later, tater!

  3. And I should add, DO NOT CHANGE KAZ BECAUSE HE REMINDS ME OF ANOTHER CHARACATER!!!!! I do that. I assign personalities and voices and looks to fictional characters based on what's in my head. Just because I thought of Roman does NOT mean that anyone else would. FYI, the regency mystery BLACKSTONE that I'm reading? Dude, he sounds like Benedict Cumberbatch's modern Sherlock Holmes in my head. It is what it is! Just sayin'... 😘

  4. Kazimir the Eastern European aristocratic cat sounds like a fun and unique character! Do you know any Russian immigrants? Or where there's a community? I think talking to live people would help.

    Of course, there's always YouTube. ;-)