Bloomsbury's Extraordinary Publishing Director (EPD) Melanie Cecka writes:
I was recently chatting with an author who was having difficulty trying to distinguish the voices of his three main characterrs (two guys and one girl). I told him they all sounded like the same person to me, so I gave him my "be the stew" advice.
Me: Be the stew.
Me: You know, think of htis novel like a lamb stew.
Author: (silence, perceived by me as deep contemplation)
Me: Now think of the way a spoonful of the stew would taste.
Author: (more silence)
Me: Now describe each of the different flavors and ingredients to me.
Author: I don't think I can.
Me: Why not?
Author: I'm a vegetarian.
Okay, I made that last part up, the the (arguably, bad!) analogy I was trying to make is that a novel is a sum of its parts, just like the flavor of a stew is the sum of its ingredients. There's the voice of the author (or the tone of the book), and then there's the impression each of the characters makes, and the big or little ways they sound or express themselves. The author's voice keeps them all bound together, but each character's voice should still be identifiable as unique to them. This author's stew was "meat, meat, meat" rather than "meat, vegetables, broth"... Or, for the vegetarians of the world, "potatoes, broccoli, carrots..."