I find when I read books that at times the characters tend to all sound the same. Unless there are multiple authors in the book, all the voices are ultimately coming from that one writer. When I write my characters, I try and find their voice. Do they have an accent? What part of the world are they from? What kind of slang would they use? In some books I have read recently, the girlfriend sounds the same as the boyfriend. They say the same slang words, yet they just met or are from different states or even countries. It just doesn’t make sense. I always worried that my characters would just be me speaking through them. Which in a way it is, but it must be a different me, with a different way of doing things.
So how can we make our characters deeper and their own person? Obviously, research is the best way to go about that. But we can also take into consideration the people who surround us. Perhaps our Aunt Millie grew up in the south and calls soda, pop (or just Coke in some southern areas), and calls everyone sugar. You can integrate that into a character you have that may fit that persona. My brother and son say things differently than I do. I try and use that distinction so that when people pick up something that I wrote, they can see these are two different people talking.
I am not saying that some writers can’t do that or fail at doing that. Well, maybe in a way I am. I want to become immersed in the story and to do that the characters need to be dynamic and change as you move along in the story. As the story comes along, it needs to be able to grow and become something bigger and better. The characters need to grow as well. Perhaps your characters get married and they are living together for a while. Then one day one half of that couple picks up using a way of saying things like the other does. That makes sense. Over time we pick up things.
I know it can be easier with people close to us or we are familiar with. When we go from typical Philly slang and jargon to say somewhere in Scotland, we may be a little out of our depth. YouTube is a good way to see how different things are said and how. What they may use to call a wrench or a good friend. It is all important to make sure the audience doesn’t get knocked back into reality and put the book down. We want them to continue and forget where they are. That escape is everything.
All I am saying is, be careful when writing that dialogue for that character. Or even the inner monologue. They need to sound just a bit different than the rest. We need to know we are shifting from one person to the next. It is more than just words on a piece of paper or screen. These are the voices of our imaginations. Let them read out that way.
I think that is why I love RPG (role playing games) so much. Each character has their own identity. They have dislikes and likes and things that completely tick them off. In a video game they have different people voice those characters to bring them to life. That makes it a bit easier when we know what the voice sounds like. But it is still a chore to make them sound different on paper. The commander of an army will sound different than a spymaster. How they think will be different. We must bring that to our novels and stories as well. That multifaceted character that becomes a life.