I'm currently working on what I hope to be a near final draft of my first ever novel. Something I've struggled with through this writing process is developing a voice for my narrator as well as my characters.

My novel is a third-person narration and because of this I'm having a hard time figuring out the voice that I want my narrator to have and what kind of voice they should have. The narrator, being third person has all the information I have as the author (obviously) but I want the story to be written as the characters experience it. Similar to something like Harry Potter or the Maze Runner, the characters are thrown into a world that they don't know much about and I want the reader to be able to learn alongside the characters. When writing from this outside perspective, I have a hard time imagining the narrator being anything but God like or a very wise old man with a long grey beard and imagining how one like that might speak is just not the right style for this kind of novel. How does a writer create voice for a third person narrator? Do they need a voice? Should they just take on the voice of the current POV character?

Next part is the characters and this I know is important. My novel focuses on two main characters, one boy and one girl (not romantic) and two other secondary characters (the secondary characters are basically there the whole time but they kind of just tag along on the journey so to speak). Because I have four characters of similar age who are constantly together I feel it's extra important to give them each a very distinct voice so that in dialogue it's obvious who's speaking just by their word choice and demeanor. So, I guess I'm mostly looking for tips on how to develop a voice that doesn't come naturally to me. How do writers balance themselves and stay consistent when switching constantly between two to four different "voices" throughout their work?

Any help related to developing a character/narrators voice is appreciated!

2 Answers 2


This question has some good answer that might help.

Anyway, my suggestion for making your characters unique is to write down their personalities, take a look at the situation, and then just role play. Whatever you/the character does, write it down. Might require some imagination, but if you've written a book already then you've got that covered. This should take care of the characters, and if something they do goes against the plot, then you might need to play around with the situation a bit. Whenever you're changing voices, just do a quick skim over the new characters personality and then get right back to role playing.

As for the narrator, personally I don't think they really need a voice, but you do you.


It sounds like your first, main question is establishing a unique voice for your narrator, so I'll focus on that in the interest of brevity. There are a lot of great examples of books that have quirky, unique and even unreliable narrators, or simply narrators with unusual voices and limited perspectives. Here are a few ways to give your narrator an interesting voice:

Limit their perspective, instead of making them omniscient and all-seeing.

A narrator becomes more likable and relatable if they don't always see everything that is happening at once. To help give your narrator some character, why not limit them so that the reader picks up on things that they don't always see?

The most obvious example of a narrator with a limited perspective is the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The book tells a very complex story about race entirely from the perspective of a young child, Scout, while also maintaining the voice of the adult Scout who is looking back on her life. There are multiple occasions in the book where things happened to her as a child that, being young, she didn't fully understand at the time - such as not realizing that a group of men who came to confront her father in prison were not just having a conversation with him, but had come as a lynch mob.

This is brilliant stuff when it comes to giving your narrator a likable personality. It's easier to relate to a narrator who isn't an all-seeing god.

Give them their own personality, asides, and insights on events.

I absolutely love when books allow their narrators to insert little asides, jokes and observations about things that are happening in the book. One of my favorite examples of this is in The Light Fantastic, by the late and great Sir Terry Pratchett:

The disc, being flat, has no real horizon. Any adventurous sailor who got funny ideas from staring at eggs and oranges for too long and set out for the antipodes soon learned that the reason why distant ships sometimes looked as though they were disappearing over the edge of the world was that they were disappearing over the edge of the world.

Doesn't this dry, cynical narrator just make you smile a little? Let the narrator make jokes, poke fun at the characters, observe cliches and remark on events, and ham it up sometimes to give them a little more life. Maybe the narrator takes a special liking to one of the characters and talks about them a little more than the others, or maybe they skip over whole sections because they're boring, allowing you a way to avoid writing boring travel bits or uninteresting dialogue. You could even humorously use this to lampshade the stranger parts of your story - maybe those are parts that the narrator's memory gets foggy on!

Give the story a framing device that allows for a unique, perhaps even unreliable narrator.

Stories that are told by omniscient, placid narrators are fine, but what if your story is being told secondhand by a prisoner who is exaggerating events slightly and doesn't always remember everything? What if it's being told by two gods who are discussing the adventures of the heroes and arguing over who is their favorite? What if it's being related orally to a group of children, and certain parts are humorously censored?

Framing devices aren't a tool for every story, but if you choose to use one for yours, all of these framing devices can offer ways to have a more interesting and engaging narrator for your story. If you think your story isn't fit for a framing device, however, you don't have to explain where the narrator comes from - sometimes it's also better to leave the narrator's origins, identity and motives unexplained. (The identity of the narrator could even be a twist reveal at the end...)

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