Character Voice and Speech Tags
Question: I was told recently by someone who read a draft of my story that they had trouble distinguishing which character was talking when there were no he/she said tags.
How can I give each of my characters their own unique voice?Answer:
A lot of factors go into a character's voice. Culture plays a role, and can include such factors as education level, where they grew up, what socio-economic or ethnic group they belong to, age, etc. All these will have an impact on their vocabulary, dialect, and use of slang.
A character's personality traits also play a role, such as confidence, how they view their status compared to who they are talking to, the relationship etc. (People talk differently to their mother than to their child, boss, spouse, servant, etc.)
Also, you might have a look at whether you are using speech tags often enough. If there are only two characters in a conversation, you can omit some of the "he said"s, but not all of them. Readers need to be reminded now and then who is speaking or they will get confused. If there are more than two characters involved in a conversation, speech tags become even more important for keeping things straight.
You can omit speech tags sometimes, for variety, if you use action to indicate the speaker. For instance...John squinted at the sign. "Do not walk on the grasp?" He turned to his companion. "Someone needs a proofreader."
But clarity is important. "He said" usually feels more repetitious to the writer, who has to type it so often, than it does to the reader.