To think that my day started out a little bleak.
Once again, I’ve picked a tricky subject for today.
Most agents’ blogs that I’ve visited mention the importance of voice at least once. Each voice must be unique. Only the character’s.
But what is voice?
Take a look at yourself. Your thoughts. Do you have favorite sayings or phrases that come out when you think and speak? Do you have a way of wording your thoughts? Is that way at least a little different from others? Do you have a world view that’s a little different from everyone else?
Check your pulse. If it’s beating, I’m sure that the answers to all of the above will be Yes.
The way that you think, what you think about, the words you use. That’s your voice (in the literary sense). How you speak to people in social interactions. How you express your opinion and how you react when people agree or (tellingly, in my opinion) disagree. That’s your voice.
That makes the importance of voice in books make more sense, doesn’t it? We want our characters to be as authentic as possible. But no matter how much time you spend studying their personality traits and motivations. No matter how accurately they react to the situations in the plot.
If the story is not told in the Main Character’s own voice, nothing will ring true. Because the person doing the talking isn’t the person going through the main story.
So how can we get an authentic voice?
I use two ways.
One is through interviewing the characters who might be called to give me their point of view. The way they react to my questions can give me a clear idea about how they should sound.
The other thing I do is to act on the page. I try to become that character and write down what he/she thinks. My issue with this method is that my voice gets mixed in, because the line of separation between me and the character is blurred.
Because of that, I prefer to interview and listen to the character telling me things. It just works better for me.
How do you get your voice authentic?
Hey all! Here’s the newest installment of GPF. Today’s guest’s blog is always full of fun and interesting views. So please head over there and tell Devin hi for me. 🙂
When you write, do you think from your mind or your characters?
It may seem weird–writing from your characters mind (we’ve created them after all, shouldn’t we think the same?)–but if you think about it, our characters aren’t us. Way to state the obvious, right?
Most writers that I’ve met call their stories their babies–their precious brain child. But what about the characters? They should be just as much our babies as our plots. Even more so, in my opinion. You could have the best Victorian era mystery plot EVER, but if your main character is talking like a valley girl? If they’re describing things as clean and bright, it’s not going to be right. Again, this is probably obvious.
When it comes to describing things, I think, at first, that writers go for the words that they know. I also think that we describe the people/places/things to reflect its history and personality. Alcatraz looks lonely because it hasn’t been used. London is dreary because of its notorious grey skies. The villains are devilishly beautiful or ugly as heck. This is how we want our readers to get a feel for people. This is how we show.
But is your character going to think London is dreary if they’ve lived under grey skies their entire life? Let’s say your MC is a guy that just does not like women. If your villain is a lady, would he really call her beautiful–whether she was or not?
It doesn’t just stop there. What if your MC’s biggest dream was to be a chef (or they could really just love food)–would those green eyes look like summer leaves or would they look like cucumbers? Is someone going to be blushing a lady bug red or are they going to blushing a bell pepper red?
One of the easiest ways to get a start on character voice is to think like them. If they’re a foodie, use food! If they’re into plants and botany, use nature. If they’re the mathematical sort, use numbers and logic. If they’re a shopaholic, use clothes and shoes and name brands. You get the idea.
It may seem obvious–redundant to say, even–but this is one of the things that helped me the most when I began writing. One of my first characters (this was a paranormal story) had the ability to touch something and know exactly what made it up. So, after awhile, I finally realized that touch should be the sense I used most. Not sight. Not smell. Not hearing. Touch. It had to be the most important, because it was the most important to him.
So, take a look at your characters–interview them if you haven’t already–and look at your manuscript. Are they matching up?
Anyone else, if you want to do a post on Fridays, please contact me as soon as you can, as the Fridays are going fast. I’m booked until June so far. 🙂 My e-mail address is: email@example.com (mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com).
So… What do you do to match the voice to the character?