Voice Acting and Characters

LESSON 4– Voice Acting and Characters

(how to use your voice for the cartoon project)


Educational Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of vocal variety and character development by creating an original character and answering questions about that character while using their unique character voice.



  • Standard L2.T.P.5: Use voice to communicate meaning through volume, pitch, tone, rate of speed, and vocal clarity.
  • Standard L2.T.P.6: Use imagination to inform artistic choices.
  • Standard L2.T.P.3: Observe, listen, and respond in character to other actors throughout a scripted or improvised scene.


Materials Needed: *Potential Introduction*: Voice Acting Tutorial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hylrH__HunA (0:00-6:00)

PowerPoint presentation:  Lesson 4.Creating a Character PPT


Hook/ Warm-up: One Word Scenes

            Directions: Students must create and perform scenes using only one word for each line, for example:

            A: Hi

            B: Hello

            A: What?

            B: Dog

            A: Oh!

Seeing as you can only use one word, you have to give it emotion and inflection to fill in the gaps of what is going on. Any questions? Give it a try with a partner, and after a few minutes we will come back together for some of you to volunteer and share your One Word Scenes!

Instruction: How do we emphasize words? Give students some examples (adapted from “Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Storytelling in the Classroom” textbook, pg. 116-117)

  • Examples:
    • Stretch– “A loooong time ago…”
    • Punch– “He ran and slammed the door.”
    • Louder/with more expression– “I really really REALLY want to win!”


Directions: Write one of the following sentences on the board. Have students read the sentence to themselves and think of a word that they could emphasize in this sentence to convey more meaning.

  • Example 1: Johnny hated the idea of eating another bite of broccoli.
  • Example 2: Sometimes you could hear the witch cackle in town.

Ask for volunteers to read on of the sentences and emphasize only one word. Tell them that ordinarily that they might emphasize more than one word, but only emphasize ONE word for this exercise. Don’t tell classmates which one they plan on emphasizing so no one knows ahead of time. Afterward, reinforce the idea that there was no one right word to emphasize or one right way to say the sentence. Everyone tells a story differently.

Sometimes, emphasizing different words can change the meaning of a sentence. Show the following example to the students. Ask for volunteers to read the sentence and ONLY emphasize the italicized word. The words are italicized for the lesson plan, but write the sentence once on the board and underline a different word each time– the students will emphasize the underlined word. After the sentence is read, ask for volunteers to share the possible implications of what they heard (see below).



What is said:

I never said Luke stole my money.

I never said Luke stole my money.

I never said Luke stole my money.

I never said Luke stole my money.

I never said Luke stole my money.

I never said Luke stole my money.

I never said Luke stole my money.



I didn’t say he did– Jesse blamed him!

I never say such a thing.

I may not have said it, but I think he did

Luke didn’t steal it, someone else did.

He didn’t steal it because I gave it to him.

He stole Emily’s money.

He stole something else.


Discussion: Often, there is no right or wrong way to emphasize…your emphasis just may have a different implication!

Potential Adaptation: Have the students get into partners. In their partnerships, one person will say these sentences (below) in several ways. After each sentence, the other student responds by improvising the implication, as in the preceding example.

  • Example 1: Did Jill give Julie a pink shirt?
  • Example 2: Can Molly go see the new movie on Saturday?


Transition: Just as we use different inflections, emphases, and vocal variety in our natural speaking voice, we need to have that same level of expression (even if it might be a bit more exaggerated) when we create different character voices. However, before we create character voices, we need to create a character!


Directions: Creating a Character

Students are going to create an animated character. Encourage students to make this new character unique. Students will practice performing as this character, but first they need to know about them! The first step to doing that is drawing them. As they draw, invite the students to consider what is unique about their character’s appearance– noticeable features, how they dress, age, etc.


The 10 questions below serve to help students develop their character’s background and personality. Have them write down their answers to these questions on their own piece of paper. Give them about 10 minutes to do so. Here are some possible questions for them to consider…(put on PowerPoint)

  1. Decide your characters gender, name, and approximate age.
  2. Nationality: where is your character from (NOTE: it can’t be Utah!)
  3. What does your character do for a living?
  4. What is your character’s family like?
  5. Does he/she have a significant other? What is he/she like?
  6. Does your character have any annoying habits?
  7. What kind of education has your character had?
  8. What’s your character’s personality like?
  9. What types of hobbies or talents does your character have?
  10. What’s your character’s favorite form of entertainment– books, movies, sports, games, etc.

Go through the 5 Steps for Discovering and Creating Original Character Voices (also put on the PowerPoint)

  1. Begin with an impression of an impression
    1. Many of the characters used in animation today are loose, distorted or exaggerated impersonations of old Hollywood stars or famous people.
    2. Try this– take an impersonation of someone famous–especially a bad impersonation– and see where that takes you. Regardless of how awkward or poor the impersonation might make you feel, you’re probably going to discover a character that is uniquely yours!
  2. Play with original voices you’ve been doing for a while
    1. Do you ever find yourself speaking for your cat, dog, hamster, etc? This is often a family character voice that has been morphed, magnified, and engrained into your childhood. Now’s your chance to bring it out into a new character!
    2. Try this– try vocalizing your voice you use to talk for your pet (or if you don’t have a pet, make a voice for your favorite animal); you can even use your “bad” impression from earlier to help you find a starting point.
  3. Consider your placement of your sound
    1. Remember how we talked about vocal placement last time– where we feel our voice coming from (i.e. nasal voice, deep throat voice, etc.) Other places to consider where your sound might be coming form is your chest voice, missing teeth, a thick tongue, well-spoken/ articulate (or trying and failing miserably?) Or how about a speech impediment (think Daffy Duck). Remember that we still need to be able to understand WHAT you’re saying, so your character’s intention is key to whether the character communicates at all.
  4. Consider your character’s emotional center and intelligence.
    1. Practice the ability to vary up the emotions while maintaining the character’s center and their primary point of view. Be patient– it takes time. Ask yourself– is my character…honest or rotten? Pleasant or terrible? Smart or dim-witted? Clever or clueless? Kind or cruel? Shy or confident? etc.
  5. Have FUN!
    1. If you’re not playing, then you risk dragging on your performance for your listening audience. Allow yourself to enjoy what you are doing and go further than you think is necessary– it is key to discovering your limitless character options. It will also keep YOU interested in what you are doing– not just your audience.


Practice: Ask students what type of voice does your character have? Think about pitch and volume levels. Have students explore and give a voice to their character by talking about their answers to some of the questions from the Creating Your Character exercise. The students may do this with a partner sitting next to them.


Activity: Walkabout– Have the students find a space in the classroom, taking their chair with them. Once they have found their space with their chair, have the students slowly pace around the chair imagining that their character is sitting in it. Recognize that they are still in the beginning stages of developing their character; this is an exploratory/ brainstorming activity to help them bring their character to life. As they visualize their character, give them verbal prompts as to what they are picturing of their character (i.e. their appearance, noticeable features, are they comfortable in the chair, how do they feel, what questions might you ask them, etc.)


After a few minutes of them examining their characters in their minds, invite the students to sit in their chair→ they have now become their character. Have them take a moment to embrace becoming their character, because the next step is to get up and walk about the room as their character (no talking yet). Have the students think about and practice how their character walks and moves. Consider posture, flexibility, etc. Students may walkabout and make eye contact with others, smile, and so forth. After a moment of walking around quietly, the students will have a chance to interact with other characters while still staying in character. Afterwards, invite students to discuss their experience…


Discussion– Developing Memorable Characters

Question: How much of your characters do you know right now? Explain to students that small details might seem insignificant to the story (i.e. a scene, monologue, or play– or even TV shows and movies), but the smallest details inform the bigger picture! Tell the students that the more they know about the characters, the better they’ll create believable characters– characters that really live and breathe on the paige, stage, or screen!


Activity/ Assessment: Character Circles

Students will be divided into 3-4 groups. In each group, each student must answer more in-depth questions about their character (will be displayed on the projector) AND answer them while being in character. Give the students a few minutes to contemplate and write down their answers to some of those questions displayed on the PowerPoint– they will turn in their answers to these questions and will be assessed on the development of their character (NOTE: There are no right or wrong answers– just describing a character). Then invite the groups to start going through their answers to the different questions. Don’t have one person answer each question for their character, move around the circle for everyone to answer the question before moving onto the next one. For example, everyone will go around answering the question “What is your character’s favorite article of clothing?” before moving onto another question. To help the students keep track, it may be best to just go down the list of displayed questions rather than bouncing around in a random order. The instructor will float about the groups and observe how they are answering the questions while staying in their character. After everyone has answered the questions, thank each other (still in character!) for helping one another know more about each other’s characters, then come back to your seats.


Discussion: What is something unique that you learned about another character in your circle? Did they share any unique perspectives or opinions? Why is voice an important element of character? (Possible answers include distinguishing character, giving depth to their personality, etc.) I hope these questions and vocal explorations have been helpful to you and given you useful tools for our cartoon assignment–and we will start working with that technology next time!


Possible more in-depth questions for character creation…only have 10-20 questions on the screen– whatever questions you see fit for the students to explore.

  1. What do you know about this character now that she/he doesn’t yet know?
  2. What is this character’s greatest flaw?
  3. What do you know about this character that she/he would never admit?
  4. What is this character’s greatest asset or ability?
  5. If this character could choose a different identity, who would she/he be?
  6. What music does this character sing to when no one else is around?
  7. In what or whom does this character have the greatest faith?
  8. What is this character’s favorite movie?
  9. Does this character have a favorite article of clothing? Favorite shoes?
  10. Does this character have a vice? Name it.
  11. Name this character’s favorite person (living or dead).
  12. What is this character’s secret wish?
  13. Describe this character’s most devastating moment.
  14. What is this character’s greatest achievement?
  15. What is this character’s greatest hope?
  16. Does this character have an obsession? Name it.
  17. What is this character’s greatest disappointment?
  18. What is this character’s worst nightmare?
  19. Whom does this character most wish to please? Why?
  20. Describe this character’s mother.
  21. Describe this character’s father.
  22. If she/he had to choose, with whom would this character prefer to live?
  23. Where does this character fall in the birth order (of siblings)? What effect does this have?
  24. Describe this character’s siblings or other close relatives.
  25. Describe this character’s bedroom. Include 3 cherished items.
  26. What is this character’s birth date? How does this character manifest traits of his/her astrological sign?
  27. If this character had to live in seclusion for 6 months, what 6 items would she/he bring?
  28. Why is this character angry?
  29. What calms this character?
  30. Describe a recurring dream or nightmare this character might have.
  31. List the choices (not circumstances) that led this character to his/her current predicament.
  32. List the circumstances over which this character has no control.
  33. What wakes this character in the middle of the night?
  34. How would a stranger describe this character?
  35. what does this character resolve to do differently every morning?
  36. Who depends on this character? Why?
  37. If this character knew she/he had exactly one month to live, what would she/he do?
  38. How would a dear friend or relative describe this character?
  39. What is this character’s most noticeable physical attribute?
  40. What is this character hiding from him/herself?
  41. Write down one additional thing about your character.
  42. Describe your character’s perfect day.
  43. What might they be looking for in a friend?
  44. Positive words to describe yourself.