If you have to write about FINDING NEMO, the Walt Disney story, you might be tempted to choose Nemo, because, after all, the title has his name in it. He must be the main character. But really, the character who changes the most and who really goes on a journey is the father, Marlin. So he’s the character best suited for a character analysis.
So number one: Choose a character who changes. Alright, now that you’ve chosen which character to analyze. You’re going to have to think of inferences. Let me give you an example of what I mean by that. Here’s some… Here’s an inference down here, but let me start with this:
Fact: Marlin hovers. We know, if you’ve watched this film, that Marlin is the dad and he hovers over his son, and doesn’t want to let him be independent and try new things or take any risks. But the fact that he does this is something that the film already tells you, so that doesn’t require much thinking on your part.
You haven’t actually drawn a conclusion from that yet. That just makes it just a plain old fact. What you need is to infer something. That means you need to draw a conclusion of your own. You have lots of facts about Marlin: what he does and what he says and what he thinks and how he reacts to situations.
And those are the facts that will help you write the essay, but you need to draw some conclusions from those facts. You need to infer what’s really going on with Marlin. What’s driving him? What are his motivations?
Explain his psychology. If he were to sit down and talk to Dr. Phill, or some therapist, what would we discover about Marlin’s history, about the way he approaches life, and how does that change over the course of the film? That’s what a character analysis explores.
The facts are the evidence that you’re going to use, as you make a case for your interpretation of this character. But the facts are not the main thrust of the character analysis. Now let’s look at something else that you don’t want to include in your character analysis.
More importantly, how can you ensure your character has a distinct one? As always, let’s start with the basics. At its core, character voice is simply a distinct personality–when a character is so three-dimensional that they practically lift off of the page.
They have unique and sometimes conflicting desires and goals and a backstory that drives all of that. Think of a friend, a family member, a relative who in any situation can make you laugh. Now let’s dig deeper. Why is that? Is it the timing of their comments? Is it the delivery?
Or is it perhaps the distinctive arrangement of words where they say things in such a way that always surprises you? Character voice can often best be portrayed in dialogue. Think about the words the character chooses. Do they have a specific dialect or an accent?
Look at the mechanics of their sentence structure. Is the character educated and maybe they speak in long flowing sentences? Or do they not have an education and therefore speak in shorter clip sentences? For their personality, are they optimistic, pessimistic, narcissistic–all the istics– that would impact the way that they say things or the delivery of how these things are said?
Show these things in the words that they say as well as when they choose to speak. Say your character is facing conflict, maybe that character gets really chatty when they are nervous or maybe the character clams up and doesn’t want to speak when they’re facing conflict. But voice isn’t just the words that your characters utter, it’s also the narrative.
In my opinion, it is way easier to convey voice in dialogue. The narrative is where things can be tricky and decidedly more difficult. But let’s see if I can shine some light on this nebulous topic. Like people, characters should have their own distinct personalities.
To do this, the first step is to avoid archetypes. I have a definition from Literary Devices that defines archetype as: The second step is to create a backstory for your character. If they’re important enough to have a name, then the reader needs to know what motivates that character to do anything.
Does that character have a hardship in their past that prevents them from opening up easily? Or perhaps to that same hardship makes the characters seek out love wherever they could get it. For both dialogue and narrative, word choice is key.
As I mentioned before, is your character educated? That would impact the structure of your sentences as well as the vocabulary that you use in those sentences. If they never had a formal education, maybe they speak in contractions and sentence fragments.
Where did your character grow up? The culture or region that they grew up in will impact their choice of words as well as how they see the world. How old is your character? If they’re very young, they might not have an extensive vocabulary yet. In addition, maybe that childhood curiosity might come into play. Is your character confident or shy?
Do they have any unique quirks or mannerisms? All of these things will contribute to what a character says internally or externally. The character’s personality, history, and vocation could also then tie into not just how they see the world but perhaps the metaphors and similes that you use.
A farmer, for example, might compare the blonde hair of the woman he loves to the stalks of wheat that he tends to. While a reclusive shepherd who dislikes children might compare them to disobedient members of his flock. When writing metaphors and similes, consider carefully a character’s knowledge and experience as well as how the two impact the characters life experience that they relate to.
Of course, thoughts and words aren’t the only thing that portray a character’s voice. Actions and reactions are a great way to convey personality. A hero, for example, might say that they don’t want to get involved in a conflict when their friend repeatedly asks them to.
But when that same friend gets into trouble when addressing the conflict, the hero might then jump into the fray to help their friend. That action conveys loyalty, which might be an integral part of that specific character. Mannerisms and physical descriptions can also help to characterize your protagonists and other characters.
If your character is a drunk, perhaps they slur their speech. If the character suffers from anxiety show how they might shy away from conflict or how they might tremble or have an anxiety attack or how they just interact with things that make them anxious.
For things like slurring or a character movement, these can be used in place of dialogue tags, which are “he said”/”she said.” For example, how a character holds themself when speaking (slouching/ standing up straight) that can convey what a character is feeling about a given situation, and how they’re feeling might then touch on their personality.
Next, give your character flaws. It is not fun for readers to follow around a perfect character who has everything that they desire. If your character has been cheated on in the past, maybe they are bitter or cynical.
Throughout the book, we can watch this character’s emotional arc as perhaps they come to terms with their scars or their emotional wounds, and maybe they fall in love at the end or make new friends. These are just a few of the ways to give your character a distinct voice.
Remember, every character that is named should have a unique voice that conveys his or her personality through showing and not telling. I’ll leave a link in the description below for my article as well as my video on how to show and not tell in your writing. But showing a character’s personality can be done through things like word choice, metaphors and similes, and so on.
Conveying distinct voice really comes down to one thing: showing the unique personality of your character in the way that they view and interact with the world. Thanks for tuning into this episode of iWriterly, how to give your character voice.
I’m your host Meg LaTorre, and if you liked what you saw, subscribe, like, comment–let me know what you want to hear about next time. As always, keep writing! Well, maybe they don’t have an elaborate elleg–ellegication. I don’t have an elaborate ellegication. Or, is it… the… dis… Or… Stop smirking. I see you smirking. Show these things in the words as… Oh gosh.