Writing Your Character's Voice

How do you make sure your characters don't all sound the same? If you think about it logically, it shouldn't be possible. I mean, we are just one person. There's a name for people with a crowd of voices in their head. How can one person pretend to be several and portray each character realistically?

I've been struggling with this while working on the second novel in my series. In the past, I've made a point not to work backwards but I've broken my own rule when I wrote a scene and realized later the character wouldn't talk like that or she wouldn't act like that.

How do you solve this? I'm reminded of a scene in the Harry Potter series where Harry's scar had hurt and he was thinking of what Ron and Hermione would say if he told them. Think of your characters as your best friends.

You know how your friends would react in any situation. If a transparent figure floats past them, you know if they'd run screaming or chase it. This can get a little tricky if you have a Game of Thrones size cast. I listed all my character's personalities and put them on my wall for easy reference.

If you have a big cast, don't worry too much about voice in the first draft. In my edits, I plan to focus on one character at time. It'll take forever but my novel's worth it.

On the subject of character voices, can a female author convincingly write a book from a male's perspective and vice-versa? Of course. Mary Shelley did it. J.K. Rowling did it. Most of my second novel is from the males' perspective. Come to think of it, not one my female characters are very girly. I'm kind of a tomboy. Been that way since elementary school. I don't think I could write a girly character. Well, I could but she'd annoy me.

Also, can an author write a book from the perspective of a character outside their own race? Yes, but I don't know how often that's done. This one, like writing outside your gender, can go really wrong. With my books, the main characters aren't human so their race isn't determined by skin color. Their complexions range from dark brown to very pale.

I'm not one to stifle creativity. If you have a book in you and the characters aren't your gender or race, go for it. Just don't rely on stereotypes.

Don't take the "write what you know" advice too literally. With the proper amount of research, we can put any type of character in any setting and make the reader believe it- without offending anyone.