Part of this thing we call voice in a novel results from the words we put in our characters’ mouths. One goal is to ensure your characters do not all sound the same.
In English class, we are taught to write in complete sentences using correct grammar. And when answering in class, we strive for the same. When we’re talking with friends and acquaintances, however, we are not nearly as precise. In fact, we strive to fit in by using the current slang and questionable verb tenses. Real conversation is full of quirky pauses and interruptions, too.
It is important, when giving voice to your characters, to ensure that they don’t all sound alike. You can make this happen by listening and studying the conversations of those around you. Go to a mall or a restaurant and listen … take notes. Practice writing some dialogue from your notes.
Mix it up in your dialogue. Include some complete sentences, of course, but also include sentence fragments, one-word responses and even a grunt or groan or two.
At first, it may seem unnatural to you, but with practice, you’ll discover the individual voice of each of your characters.