Finding voices for your characters can be difficult, even for seasoned writers. It doesn't matter how many times I've populated my stories, I always have trouble hearing my protagonist and supporting cast at first. That's why I recommend to all authors and scribes, new and old, to cast their work before they write.
How does this work? Simple, really. First, you need to know who are your main characters. Identify their basic traits, as well as their thoughts and needs. Writer's Write has a great template here. Once you have a better idea of who these people are, start thinking about the actors you would want to play them in the movie.
Let's try an example.
We've got a nerdy-yet-brash antihero. She's still on the young side, but trending toward adulthood. Her vocabulary is primarily swear words, and her fashion sense is borderline myopic. Her super power is staying in the lines while using a crayon. Oh, and she's a little nuts. Makes inappropriate jokes at super awkward times.
Ok. Now, cast that role in your head. Who did you pick?
Did you go with Anna Kendrick?
Maybe Krystin Ritter is more your character's speed. In either case, having this role cast allows you to play the dialogue in a known voice. Both Anna and Krystin have developed their on-screen personalities over years of film and television. I'll bet, without even a trip to YouTube, you can hear their voices in your head.
And that's the magic of casting your characters before you start writing.
In my novel Brassworks, I ended up using Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins as competing characters, because I was so familiar with their work from Justified. Freed from the pressure of inventing an entirely new and unique voice for my character, I was able to let the actor define the role. Sure, I wrote the words and I directed the story, but the language flowed from the real-life person in my head.
Why don't you try that today? Take your character and cast a name-brand talent. Try writing a new scene, or and old one, with this actor in mind. Did you find it easier to process? Were you less focused on the voice and more focused on the story?
Let me know in the comments below! Next week, we're going to tackle something even more difficult.