I have a confession to make: A lot of my characters sound the same.
I bet this is a problem for a lot of other writers, especially those like me who write in first person. And this is compounded by the fact that I have a strong written voice (I bet you could read one of my novels and know it was written by me just because you read my blog).
This is a problem. My characters are not me. They are not described as me, they do not act like me, they are not thinly veiled me. But they sound an awful lot like me.
It’s terrible, and it’s something I have to fix before I’m ready to submit to agents.
Making our characters distinct, both from ourselves and from each other is very important. It’s important to the reader who is reading one or more of your novels (no one wants to read multiple novels that sound like they are about the same character) and it’s important so that you as a writer do not become a one book pony.
Plus, the characters deserve distinction.
Over the last week I wrote my first novella, about a character who is a New Adult (rather than a Young Adult) and who is going through an experience that I can’t completely relate to. For these reasons and various others which I won’t bore you with, she has come out sounding less like me and more like herself.
I’m very proud of her. And I’m proud of myself.
Although she retains enough of my voice to still be obviously my character, she is as distinct from me as my sister. In other words, even though we share some DNA we are still very different people.
Writers who care about their characters names often want to choose distinct names for their characters, I think at least subconsciously so that they will make the character distinct from others out there in the same genre. While I understand this desire (and somewhat share it), it’s also important not to confuse having a character with a distinct name with the more laudable having a character with a distinct personality and voice.
Names are important. So is everything else.
I’m really happy that my story shaped up the way it did. I have a first draft for this novella that doesn’t need as much work as my other first drafts because the character has a good voice, and because it has a different sort of plot that is simple and direct but which suits the story.
And, my character has an interesting (but not rare or weird) name. And while I’m not going to tell you what it is, I will tell you I mentioned it in last week’s post when I discussed characters that have essentially the same names.