Point of view’s just the start in bringing the reader into the world of your story; each character needs a unique voice, and here’s what it means. I witnessed a tall, thin disheveled man, who was carrying a pile of framed oil paintings, pause on the corner of College and Claremont in Oakland, California, look thoughtfully at the ground, then hurl the paintings into the air and walk off. You don’t know what’s going on inside his head, but you can imagine it. This is the writer’s job, to create unique characters, each with a distinct voice, so the reader can imagine far more about them than what’s stated.
Now you may be thinking at this point that this is what you want to do with your story or novel manuscript ─ throw it into the air. It’s not art, you despair, and it’s so incredibly satisfying to tear up papers or fling them on the floor, which is the downside of laptops. Do it, if you’ve printed your work. Go ahead. Do it. This is what writing fiction’s all about. Create and destroy. Destroy and create: the man with the paintings has a unique voice, he’s done something you don’t often see, he’s one to remember, and this is how you want your readers to think of your characters. Each one is distinct. Each one has his or her own point of view, beliefs, way of speaking, habits, mannerisms, politics, desires and weaknesses, and this person isn’t you.
Voice is one character’s world view and the manner in which she lives. Others characters are different. Voice draws many readers into a story, although not all readers, those who may dislike a character’s voice, which should fit the tone of the story. A character who’s funny, you might expect a funny story. A character who’s wild and out of control may result in tragedy. An example of great voice in recent fiction is The Elegance of the Hedgehog. The two main characters are as distinct as can be, a child and an aging woman, each with a different world view, which is reflected in their philosophies and the ways in which they talk and act.
There are many tips on how to create unique characters, and for this you can go elsewhere. This isn’t all nuts and bolts. Did you think this was just craft? This is about creating something no one else has created, so give your characters unique characteristics and let the reader meet you half way by imagining the rest. Know and live in the skin of your characters so they become people no one, in fiction, ever encountered. This is art.
Forget craft ─ art is unique