|Photo credit: Zabowski on Flickr|
In my case, my writer voice was way overpowering my character's voice (a problem, especially in first person) and this revelation forced me to stop and rethink how I view voice.
You see, your writer voice develops naturally over time—it's something that threads together with every word you write and every sentence you read. It evolves gradually, naturally into something that is you, into your mark on the page.
But the character voice — that's an entirely different battle, because your character's voice is not the same as your voice. Not even close.
I've been following John Green's "Only If You Finished The Fault in Our Stars" tumblr, and oftentimes people have asked him why he had Hazel or Augustus (the book's two main characters) say or think something. The most popular of these questions was why Hazel states at the beginning of the novel that V for Vendetta is a “boy movie,” and whether he believes V for Vendetta to be a "boy movie." I found part of his answer particularly interesting (and relevant, so bear with me):
"I am not a sixteen-year-old girl with stage IV cancer named Hazel Grace Lancaster, so I did not call V for Vendetta a boy movie. I was writing from her perspective, and it’s really important to note that it’s not necessarily my perspective. So I think HAZEL (at least beginning of the novel Hazel) would consider V for Vendetta a boy movie. I generally do not attach gender to films or other works of art, as it seems like a weird thing to do."
What he's hitting on here is golden advice for any writer: we are not our characters. I mean, we are in the sense that we create and develop them, but by no means are we them (because if we are, we have a new problem, namely, that you're writing a Mary Sue into your story, which is an entirely different post (and problem) on its own).
Your voice — that is, the voice of the writer — must be different from your characters' voices (unless you're writing an autobiography, in which case, carry on).
For me, that revelation meant having to rewrite my WIP while constantly asking myself if this is something my protagonist would think or say. I won't pretend it wasn't a lot of work, but I came out of it with an entirely new perspective on developing and writing characters.
How do you develop character voices? Have you ever found your writer voice was overpowering your character voice? How did you fix it?