James E. Woods

Most Common Writing Mistakes: Weak Character Voice

Voice. That tantalizingly nebulous word is flung around so often in writing critiques and agent demands that writers sometimes get to where we almost hate the sound of it. Every author is supposed to cultivate a unique voice. But, even more than that, we’re also supposed to create a unique character voice for every one of our players.

But how do we do that? Well, we start by creating unique character personalities—and, if we’re lucky, character voice will just flow right out of those vibrant personalities. Sounds good, all right. So let’s say you’ve created that super-duper, unique character. He’s a wise-guy kid who’s headed for the European theater in World War II. His voice is thick in your head, and his personality seems to be bubbling right out onto the page.

But beta readers aren’t getting it.

“I don’t hear his…

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