Last week I scratched the broad topic of character voice and at the end I realized I need to follow up with some examples.
A) In Dialog
Manny was late to the reunion.
"Hey Chavon, I know everybody is late in Argentina, but you just set a new record," shouted Miguel with a grin when Manny walked in for breakfast.
"I'm sorry, man, I couldn't leave."
"No worries, we still have two days left to party. God didn't invent carnival for one day. Cheers." Miguel raised his Prosecco to welcome his mate.
"I don't know if I can stay the whole time." Manny turned away, nodded a "hi guys" to the others and sat down at the only free seat on the other side of the table.
This little scene presents two characters Manny and Miguel. Miguel seems to be a guy which has always a joke or a witty comment - outgoing, festive. Manny seems to be a more silent kind of person. In this scene he seem to have an issue or he is per se a grumpy person. Two distinct voices, which allows us to see different characters and without knowing more, we can see real people.
B) In Reaction
Daniel and Tim chased the thief through half the zoo. From far they saw him running into a building. Daniel was catching up, but as soon as was in the door of that building he froze.
Spiders scared him. They really scared - not like the most of the people feel uncomfortable. He got petrified; already the thought of spider let him freeze. When they were kids, Tim had always mocked him about that. Once he even had eaten a small spider, just to nab Daniel.
The thief had demolished all terrariums with the exotic spiders. Daniel slowly turned around and watched the walls next to him - just to make sure there was no spider next to him.
"I don't go in there," he heard Tim saying.
We have to, said Daniel's brain, but his feet wouldn't obey. On the other side of the hall he heard the other door going. "We can't leave him with it. We loose everything. I loose Mary." That thought convinced his legs and he started running.
Tim did not follow him.
Again we have to characters with different reactions on the same situation. Daniel overcomes his fears, while Tim couldn't. With regards to character voice we attribute a special courage to Daniel. Tim on the other hand leaves us in with the impression of somebody with a loud mouth, but chickens out when it is for real.
Disclaimer (for my honor): Usually I would include more dialog in these kind of scenes in order to show instead of telling, but I wanted to put the emphasize on the internal view of the characters. Additionally I would foreshadow Daniel's arachnophobia earlier in the story so I don't have to interrupt the suspense of the scene.
First time I saw him, I was disgusted. He was walking down the sidewalk, the cowboy shirt outside the jeans, except in front, so everybody could see his belt buckle. His steps were far too large for his height, as is he wanted to imitate John Wayne. I could hear his boots on the wooden planks followed by a clatter from his spurs. The air was scintillating and my throat got dry.
"Hi babe, you are that new kid in town, right. Want me to show you around?"
I had thousands of excellent answers ready, from snotty to witty. I wasn't able to pull one of them.
This time we see one character through the eyes on another. Still we get a very clear picture of both of them.
All these examples show clearly how important character voice is. After knowing a character's voice in his entire completeness, consistency along the development of the character is key.
Last but not least I want to bring up one issue or fear I am facing with my own writing. Coming from another language I sometimes have the impression you hear this underlying in the character's voice - especially the dialogs. My character's should sound like Argentinians and not like Germans emigrated to Argentina. Knowing this, I will have to put more emphasize on this during review and maybe ask my beta readers for feedback.
Your writer in a foreign land