Quick Tips: A Character’s Voice Depends On Their Environment

A friend asked me to read his script the other day and after a few minutes reading, a major problem became evident — all his characters sounded the same! Cover the character’s names and you couldn’t tell who was talking.  I know some of you are saying “Duh! of course you can’t tell who’s talking if you cover their names.”  Well check this – cover the character names in the Star Wars script and you can still tell Han Solo from Luke Skywalker.  Han is a smuggler, knows his way around the star system, hangs in seedy bars, deals with some bad ass people. He believes in himself and his blaster. Luke on the other hand, has spent his entire life on his uncle’s farm on Tatooine. He’s completely naive to the way the universe works. His opinions are learned from his hard, salt of the earth (or sand) uncle.  They are vastly different from each other yet both are interesting in their own way.

Okay, lets keep this real world. Think about the people around you. The “older generation” in your life probably don’t talk like the high school kids you know (I’m not sure they’d even understand them).  People who grew up in farming communities aren’t going to speak like people who grew up in the city. Some one from LA will sound different from someone from the deep south.  People are products of their environments – that environment is rich with a culture, history, music, etc. that is unique to that area. So is the language… so put some thought into where your character comes from. If your story takes place in New Orleans but your main character is visiting from NYC, he/she should sound completely different from the people they encounter! Bring the flavor and culture of NYC to the Big Easy! In the same breath however, make sure the rich environment of New Orleans is just as strong, the contrasts will really make the characters pop!

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