Listening to the Voices in your Head—Character Building through Dialogue

This is a guest post by Melissa Lemon. Melissa began writing books and inventing characters as a young child and never stopped. Many of her book ideas have come from stories her children coerced out of her on the spot. Her first published book, Cinder and Ella is now available. You can also watch the trailer or visit Melissa on her blog.

One of the best ways for me to get to know my characters is to listen to them. No, I’m not schizophrenic, thanks for asking. Think about it, though. How much can you learn about someone by listening to them? (If you need to know the answer to that rhetorical question, go to a local restaurant, sit in a corner with a notebook and people watch.)

My books usually stem from a simple idea. I think on that idea FOREVER. Then I jot down a plot and think some more. And think some more. In those thoughts, I imagine the characters, what they think about, what they feel, what happens to them, and how they talk. A lot of the time I can hear a voice so clearly””I want to emphasize here again that I’m not schizophrenic””it’s like the character walked up to me and began a conversation.

Since I never know when these characters are going to make an “appearance,” I carry notebooks with me everywhere and keep one on my nightstand because I’ve learned they have no respect for my bedtime and need for sleep. These notebooks are filled with conversations between the characters in my various books. Then, when I’m working on actually writing the book and working through the plot and description, I plug in their pretty little voices.

Meet some of the Characters of Cinder and Ella:

Ella: “When do you think you’ll remember where we are?” Can you hear the sarcasm?

Tanner: “I’m so sorry.” Clumsy knight is written all over that, especially since he says it constantly.

Katrina: “Mother, I must have a new dress or I will never come out of my room again!” I think that one speaks for itself.

William: “Time is precious to a man who has many women to spoil and much wine to drink.” Drunken idiot. He hardly says anything worth listening to. And yet, there he is, in my head.

Maybe I am schizophrenic. I sound schizophrenic.


What are the voices in your head saying?