Last night, Figment and our friends at This Is Teen hosted a live chat with authors Maggie Stiefvater and Lucy Christopher called “The Voices in My Head.” Both authors had some great tips and advice for developing character voice–you can read some of the highlights below! If you want to hear all the authors’ thoughts on cats in sweater vests, though, you’ll have to check out the full transcript.
On getting to know a character:
Maggie: I always think I know what my characters will be like before I begin . . . but in reality, I have a very stylized idea of them, and it changes a LOT during the book. I actually always hate the first 10,000 words of each book I write for that reason. They feel like strangers.
On “hearing” a character’s voice:
Lucy: Gemma’s voice came into my head as I was driving one day. “You saw me before I saw you.” I raced home and started writing from there. . .
On basing a character’s voice on a real person:
Maggie: Yes, I steal people all the time. If I’m in the early part of drafting a novel, be wary of when I sit next to you on an airplane.
Lucy: I think I might steal body language more than actual voice though.
On throwing soup on strangers to see how they react:
Lucy: It’s one way to get people to talk.
Maggie: I am trying to get as close to the truth as I can, while still maintaining my artistic style. No soup, though.
On reading books aloud:
Maggie: I read almost all of my books out loud. That is fairly new for me — three books ago I started using it.
Lucy: Yes, I read aloud too. Sometimes I have a sore throat at the end of a good writing day. My neighbours think I’m nuts, too.
On writing in the perspective of a different gender:
Maggie: I get asked this a lot. But no one ever asks me “what’s it like writing from the point of view of a werewolf?”, “what’s it like to be a washed up rock star?”, or “what’s it like to be a 19 year old returning horse racing champion?” Every character is different from you, or better be . . .
On appearance vs. reality:
Lucy: There were a certain bunch of guys when I was at school who were soooo cool and hip and tough . . . but really just confused little boys inside . . . I’m channeling them when I write my male voice.
On “teen” voice:
Maggie: I hate, hate, hate when people say ‘this person doesn’t sound like a teen.’ Because it means that teens are all a single species. So therefore, all adults must be the same, right? Because otherwise there is some point where we all change and become unique? NO. There is no stereotypical teen voice. You don’t need to make your character sound like the “average” teen or the “Average” boy or the “average” anything. The key to true storytelling is to be SPECIFIC.
Lucy: The only thing I can think of that might be potentially unique to a teen voice is the fact that teens are often experiencing things for the first time (often, though not always)….this might be a different perspective to an adult voice.