Let's take an example of a surface-level voice/detail and Dig Deeper:
I love flip flops. I wear them all the time.
Why? Why does that matter?
Comfort is way more important to me than looking posh.
I don’t care what others think about my looks.
It’s not important.
What is important?
Family. Getting things done. I don’t need to spend a million years on my looks; I have too much to do.
Using these answers, re-write the sentence:
I throw my flops on; no need to spend a million years on my looks. Who cares what others think – I’ve got too much to do.
See the difference? Having dug into my character's statement, I scratched the surface to find out motivation, perspective, attitude...voice! I've taken a fairly common and bland statement and transformed it into an engaging voice.
Let your character talk to you. Had I gone even farther with my questioning, I might have hit on some internal flaws, internal motivations, fears...the deeper you go, the deeper the connection.
If you're struggling to make an emotional scene really punch hard, or trying to find that authentic voice, take some time to Dig Deeper.
An exercise in digging deeper:
- Find three places in your first chapter where you tell us something your character likes or is feeling.
- Ask "why" (and/or why-questions) a minimum of six times.
- Use the answers to re-write the original sentence.
Feel free to share before and after versions in the comments. I'd love to see them!