Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard


Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard

Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard


Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard

Hi everyone, Sandra Orchard here. After a long hiatus from blogging, I’m delighted to be back celebrating the release of my 25th novel with a post about voice.

Boughs of Folly is my tenth cozy mystery written as part of multi-author sets. In such cases, maintaining authentic voices for characters, that are simultaneously being written about by other authors, carries unique challenges.

When my first novel released, a family member said she felt distracted while first reading it, because she heard my voice in her head. Thankfully, after a few scenes, my characters took on lives of their own for her, and she forgot about me. But her comment made me ever cognizant of the importance of ensuring the “voices” of my stories are true to the story being told.

So, how do we do that?

First let me clarify what I mean by “voice.” Voice can refer to:

1) An author’s unique style of storytelling that characterizes much of his or her work.
2) A particular story’s narrative voice—i.e. the voice in which the story is told. Or…
3) The characters’ actual voices spoken in dialogue.

The best advice I’ve heard with regards to developing #1 is to not try. Some say your distinctive voice will emerge the more you write. But be cautious about imitating others who you presume know more than you. I’ve observed, especially with newbies, that in our efforts to incorporate all the seemingly wonderful advice we receive from critiquers, we can quickly dilute or lose the fresh voice of our original piece. I suspect this is because when you’re passionate about a story and write with abandon, oblivious to ‘the rules’, your unique voice is given full rein. Editing, on the other hand, uses the left side of your brain and can alter it drastically.

Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard
So, instead of searching for your voice (as per #1), I recommend mastering the art of point of view, to help you develop strong narrator and character voices.

Honing this skill has proven invaluable to me in writing multi-author continuities featuring the same main character, including for Boughs of Folly. Now in theory, the first lucky author of a continuity gets to set the tone the rest of us must mirror for each continuing character. And Boughs of Folly is book one in the Jingle Bells Mysteries set. However, the three-book bundle, features long-established characters from the realm of the Chocolate Shoppe Mysteries.

So, I acquainted myself with all the wonderful quirky characters by immersing myself in the original series. The stories are set in Georgia, but the series editor advised me that authors were urged to use a light touch when it came to “Southernisms.” My goal while reading was to know the characters so well, that I’d hear their voices in my head. To that end, I focused on the distinctive nuances of each continuing characters’ voice. These are the same sorts of nuances you can use to create characters that stand apart from each other.

Tip: Sitting in a crowded place, such as an airport or shopping mall, and listening to the conversations going on around you is a great way to discover fresh voices for your characters.

Ready to assess the voices in your stories?

Let’s evaluate your characters’ dialogue first:

Does it vary in sentence structure? Some people talk in long run-on sentences. Some talk in short, disjointed blips. How about vocabulary? Does one character use few words, while another exhibits verbal diarrhea? Do some characters use big words or technical jargon, while others use slang? Does your English professor use perfect diction? Or do you characterize your jock by having him be well read and speak with perfect diction? How about each character’s grammar? Does it vary?

Do characters share the same pet words? They shouldn’t. But this might be the chance for you to use all those adjectives and adverbs, you’ve been trained to replace with strong nouns and verbs. Because in dialogue, your flowery character can be as flowery in her language as you want. Just ensure she’s the only one who speaks that way. Unless of course your sarcastic character chooses to imitate her.

If you choose to give a character a unique dialect, avoid tricky spellings. Instead, show the dialect through word choice, word order and sentence construction etc.

Finally, notice what isn’t in the dialogue. What’s not being said, or the subtext of what’s said or done, often characterizes the reader far more than his or her actual dialogue. In other words, what counts isn’t what your character says, but the effect of what he meant.

If you’re writing a continuity, your editor’s input is invaluable in keeping characters’ voices consistent from one author to the next, and the continuity guidelines will likely determine who the narrator’s voice or voices will be.

Quick tips for Choosing your Narrator

Whether writing in first or third person, the character you choose to narrate the story (or scene) has a huge impact on your story’s tone. In my romantic suspense, where my hero and heroine take turns narrating scenes, I choose the character with the most to lose.

In addition to all the elements of voice discussed above, other elements also come into play in your narrator’s voice. For example, can the reader trust the narrator? Do his thoughts correspond with his speech and actions? Does she have a secret? Is he hiding a sin or regret or deep-seated fear? The more you flesh out your characters with flaws, fears, secrets etc., the more you can layer their emotions into the narrative, so the reader experiences them, too.

Most importantly, have fun getting into character!

Speaking of having fun…


I’m giving away 25 books as part of my 25th book celebration. Leave a comment or question about “voice” to throw your name into the hat for tomorrow’s draw for a copy of one of my earlier titles.

And…enter the rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win one of 10 copies of Boughs of Folly.

And…stop by my blog to see the free E books and special price promos my publishers are offering as part of my celebration. (current limited time offers—Deadly Devotion is free & Identity Withheld, a Love Inspired Suspense, is $1.99 )


Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard
Sandra Orchard writes fast-paced, keep-you-guessing stories with a generous dash of sweet romance. Touted by Midwest Book Reviews as “a true master of the [mystery] genre,” Sandra celebrates the publication of her 25th novel in 2022. She writes for Love Inspired Suspense, Revell and Annie’s Fiction. And her novels have garnered numerous awards. From Niagara Canada, when not dreaming up fictional characters, Sandra spends most of her time playing with the characters in her real life—aka her little grandchildren.

Connect with Sandra at: website | Facebook | Amazon

About Boughs of Folly:

Jillian Green’s holiday cheer nosedives when her great aunt’s friend, Herbert, is killed while helping them decorate for a fundraiser. But the case is more tangled than a strand of twinkle lights, and if Jillian can’t uncover the killer, Herbert’s night might not be the only one silenced this Christmas.

Boughs of Folly is part of a three-book Jingle Bells Mysteries bundle, releasing June 25, 2022, and sold exclusively by Annie’s Fiction

Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard

Don't forget to enter to win a copy of one of Sandra's earlier titles by leaving a comment or question about 'voice' below!


32 Comments on Seekerville: The Journey Continues: Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard

  • Mindy Obenhaus
    on June 07, 2022 | 12:01 Mindy Obenhaussaid :
    "Sandra, it's so good to "see " you again! Love those book covers. And these are some great tips. I'm saving this post."
  • MeezCarrie
    on June 07, 2022 | 13:06 MeezCarriesaid :
    "such a great post, Sandra - thank you so much for sharing with us today!"
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 07, 2022 | 13:21 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "Thanks so much, Mindy! Fun to be back. :)"
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 07, 2022 | 13:22 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "Thanks, Carrie!"
  • AA Haynes
    on June 07, 2022 | 13:47 AA Haynessaid :
    "I love your advice about "avoiding tricky spellings," and instead implying dialect through word choice and sentence construction! This is great advice, and I needed it. "
  • Jan Drexler
    on June 07, 2022 | 14:33 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "Hi Sandra!

    Congratulations on your 25th book!

    This is great advice. One of the things I look for when I do revisions is if I've made two characters sound too much alike. Sometimes I catch all of them using the same speech patterns I do...and they all sound like me. *eyeroll*

    And I think it would be a challenge to be in a multi-author continuity and still keep the characters true to the series! You must have found the secret!

    Thanks for being on Seekerville today!"
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 07, 2022 | 15:14 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "I'm glad to hear you've found that helpful!"
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 07, 2022 | 15:16 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "Thank you so much, Jan! Yes, I agree with you about speech patterns, and I have to watch for favourite pet words too. On the flip side, in my current WIP, a character's speech pattern turns out to be a clue to solving the mystery. :)"
  • MeezCarrie
    on June 07, 2022 | 15:22 MeezCarriesaid :
    "ooo that's intriguing!"
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 07, 2022 | 15:51 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "Love this post, Sandra! And Congrats on book 25! wow!!! I love what you said about the #1 voice. I've always thought (and heard) that it's something innately a part of a writer and develops as you write. Also, love how we, as writers, can develop those unique and memorable dialogue voices too!"
  • Winnie Griggs
    on June 07, 2022 | 16:22 Winnie Griggssaid :
    "Hi Sandra, so great to have you with us today. And this is such a great post! My last three books have been Amish and voice is so critical to evoking that world. it's something I struggle with and am hyper-aware of"
  • Anonymous
    on June 07, 2022 | 16:45 Anonymoussaid :
    "Hi, Sandra! Congratulations on your 25th novel! That's very exciting!"
  • Anonymous
    on June 07, 2022 | 16:45 Anonymoussaid :
    "Well, I didn't get signed in! That comment is from Missy Tippens. :)"
  • Erica Vetsch
    on June 07, 2022 | 17:06 Erica Vetschsaid :
    "Congratulations on 25 books! That's phenomenal! I love posts about voice, both the author's and characters. "
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 07, 2022 | 17:08 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "Glad you enjoyed the post, Pepper. Thanks for the congrats. :)"
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 07, 2022 | 17:09 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "LOL, thanks so much, Missy!"
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 07, 2022 | 17:11 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "For sure! I wrote one book set in an Amish setting, and had to read a lot of Amish books to get a feel for the way writers are evoking that world. Thankfully, my main pov character wasn't Amish--made it easier."
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 07, 2022 | 17:12 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "Thanks so much, Erica!"
  • Lee-Ann
    on June 07, 2022 | 17:37 Lee-Annsaid :
    "Thanks for sharing your thoughts on an author's voice. It wasn't something I'd really thought about when I started writing - though I heard it mentioned a lot. But there are some authors that just have "it". You know when you're reading their books it's them writing. :) I decided early on I'd focus on mechanics and structure rather than chase an "illusive" concept. Apparently it worked. LOL

    Love Niagara! My duet partner lived in Niagara, Ontario and we performed around the Golden Horseshoe for a couple of summers way back when. "
  • Lee-Ann
    on June 07, 2022 | 17:39 Lee-Annsaid :
    "PS - Looking forward to reading your series inspired by Niagara! "
  • Sandy Smith
    on June 07, 2022 | 17:49 Sandy Smithsaid :
    "Great post, Sandra. I struggle a bit with voice, but these are some good tips. I love the cover on the book."
  • Dana R. Lynn
    on June 07, 2022 | 19:57 Dana R. Lynnsaid :
    "Hi Sandra! Huge congrats on 25 books. What an accomplishment! I loved this post. I remember how intimidating it was as a new author. I was anxious to learn all I could to avoid making mistakes. Your advice to be careful not to edit out your voice is so relevant and spot on!"
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 07, 2022 | 21:01 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "How fun! What instrument do you play?"
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 07, 2022 | 21:02 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "Thanks, Sandy."
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 07, 2022 | 21:04 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "I'm glad to hear others can relate to that! And thank you."
  • Anonymous
    on June 07, 2022 | 23:23 Anonymoussaid :
    "Hi Sandra! Welcome back to Seekerville! Your advice about evaluating your dialogue is spot on. I've read so many books where the cadence of dialogue was the same for all the characters. Make them unique. Congrats on 25 books!!!!!!"
  • justcommonly
    on June 07, 2022 | 23:57 justcommonlysaid :
    "Congratulations Sandra on your 25th book! Happy to have you back. As a reader, I find the author's voice shown through each character's own distinctive voice very important! It gives readers a better grasp of the author's thoughts for the story and their writing style. Thank you for your tips!"
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on June 08, 2022 | 04:14 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "Sandra, what a great post.... I work with Guideposts so I know exactly what you mean, having the continuity flow from book one to book twenty-five and keeping folks in character... but keeping the mysteries individual. God bless those editors, they're amazing. Congrats on 25 books! How wonderful!!!!"
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 08, 2022 | 08:07 Sandra Orchardsaid :
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 08, 2022 | 08:08 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "Great to be back! Thank you"
  • Sandra Orchard
    on June 08, 2022 | 08:09 Sandra Orchardsaid :
    "They sure are. I've been enjoying your posts on your mystery books in particular. :) "
  • Lee-Ann
    on June 08, 2022 | 22:28 Lee-Annsaid :
    "Piano and my duet partner plays clarinet. "
Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard

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