The Lactating Armpit and How To Make Your Characters Have Different Voices

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Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
The Lactating Armpit and How To Make Your Characters Have Different Voices

Voice is such a big deal for making memorable and believable characters in your story, but it’s one of the harder things to understand sometimes.

As writer Rita Mae Brown said,

“People are funny. No doubt you’ve noticed that others are not nearly as reasonable as yourself. Shocking, isn’t it? This difference between you and other people comes out in speech. Obviously, difference displays itself in the subject matter people speak about, but on a deeper, more subtle level, it displays itself in the way in which they frame those very ideas.”

The voice of your character is truly the heart and mind of your character and their background expressed on the page.

Or as Brown says, “Speech is a literary biopsy.”

There are a lot of different ways to think about the voice of your characters, that thing that makes them believable and sets them apart from the other characters even when they all have similar demographics (college sophomores, white women, middle class background, from Missouri).

But first we have to think about the two different ways voice is represented for characters.

There is

Internal voice

            What they think. (Use only in first and limited-third person POVs)

External voice

            Word choice


To make that character’s voice stand out, writers tend to do one of three things or a combination:

  1. Write your way through it until your characters sound different.
  2. Listen to people who are like your character and copy their cadence and word choice, sentence length, etc.
  3. Watch a tv show/movie with people who remind you of your character.

There are other factors that come into play too. How we talk is often influenced by

  1. Where we’re from.
  2. Socio-economic demographics.
  3. Education.
  4. Age. Gender. Ethnicity. Race. The cultural norms for any group we belong to.
  5. Our emotions at that moment – I don’t sound the same now as I do when I’m yelling or terrified or when I’m trying to take command of a volatile situation.
  6. What we’re really into – If you’re into dogs, you’ll probably use words like “alpha.” If you’re into military culture, you might sprinkle in words like “got your six” or “command.” If you’re into poetry, you might use words like “cadence,” “litany.” And you might use those words even when you aren’t talking about those things.

How we put words together makes a big difference, too. I’m sure in Shaun’s times in the military or the police force he heard choppy sentence people.

            Get here. Now.

And managerial types.

            I’d like you to come here immediately.

And those afraid of conflict.

            If you have a moment, would you mind coming over here as soon as you possibly can?

Some people love the drama of speech. Some people don’t like to talk at all. It’s all a bit of info that you can use to show their character, too.


Think beyond your experience, write beyond it too.


Not everyone sounds the same. Listen for the nuance.


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW! It’s taking a bit of a hiatus, but there are a ton of tips over there.

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Resources Mentioned


I just want to let everyone know that INCHWORMS (The Dude Series Book 2) is out and having a good time as Dude competes for a full scholarship at a prestigious Southern college and getting into a bit of trouble.

Here’s what it’s about:

A fascinating must-read suspense from New York Times bestseller Carrie Jones.

A new chance visiting a small Southern college.
A potential love interest for a broken girl obsessed with psychology.
A damaged group of co-eds.
A drowning that’s no accident.
A threat that seems to have no end.

And just like that Jessica Goodfeather aka Dude’s trip away from her claustrophobic life in Maine to try to get an amazing scholarship to her dream school has suddenly turned deadly. Again.

What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children's books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life.

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