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Saturday, September 28, 2013

What Else You Need to Know Most About Character Voice

Here's part 2 of my article on character voice. In part 1(you can read it here) I came up with this formula:

What the Character Thinks or Talks about + How She Says it = Voice

And I discussed the first portion of it, using Hobbits from The Lord of the Rings as examples. They often choose to talk about food and rarely talk about battle tactics. Also note, that what your character chooses to say in a given situation often reveals what he's thinking about in that moment. Today I'll explore the next part.

How Your Character Talks

Education, culture, experience, interests, and social circles factor in to how your character delivers his lines. Consider speech patterns and word choice as well. 

Back to my examples of the nutritionist, the fashionista, and the dentist from last time. Their interests influence how they speak. They will have a wider range of vocabulary for dieting, clothes, and teeth. The fashionista, for example, probably wouldn't say, "she's wearing a blue shirt." She'd say, "she's wearing a teal tunic with lace along the hem, Swarovski drop earrings, and she's carrying a patent leather Coach purse in coral."

Listen to how the Hobbits talk:

"It's like the great stories, Mr. Frodo. . .Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think I do, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. . . . .Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something." --Samwise Gamgee

Notice words like "Mr. Frodo," and "Folk," help establish Sam's voice. Pretend, instead, Gandalf said this. The words and speech patterns would be different. Instead of "lots of chances" he might say "many opportunities." He might pause in different places and use different sentence structures. He's far more educated and experienced than Sam, so he'd say those same thoughts in a different way.

Then think how Gollum would say those thoughts. . . oh, wait, he wouldn't say those thoughts. Gollum doesn't think like that. That's voice too.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What You Need to Know Most About Character Voice

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit I didn't have much of an understanding of character voice at the beginning of this year. None of my professors in college really talked about it. I think I remember learning the definition in high school and reading it briefly in a few writing tips.

In truth, I've probably heard the fact that "Voice is one of the biggest draws for getting an agent or editor" more than I've actually heard tips on writing voice. Since then, I've gotten to the heart of what voice is. Or so I think. You'll have to judge for yourself. Here's what I found for anyone who might be struggling like I once was, or anyone who wants to learn more.

First, by definition, "voice" can refer to the writer's style, the narrator's style, or, your characters' persona, thoughts, speech patterns, and word choice.

Sometimes when people think of character voice, they think of first-person narration, but really, all characters have a voice of their own, even if they aren't telling the story.

To illustrate, here are three lines from Harry, Ron, and Hermione:

  • "Don't go picking a row with Malfoy, don't forget, he's a prefect now, he could make life difficult for you..."
  • "Can I have a look are Uranus too, Lavender?"
  • "I don't go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me."

If you've read the books, I bet you can tell who said what.

Voice is made up of two things: What the character talks (or sometimes thinks) about, and how she says it. In other words:

What the Character Thinks or Talks about + How She Says it = Voice

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Novel, Name, and Blog: A Handful of Updates

Hey guys, a short post this week with some updates about what's been going on with me and what there is to look forward to. :) I figure some people want updates once in a while...

  • First, I want to say, I like you guys. Thanks for following. This last week Glipho published an interview with me (you can read it here). I'm shocked it's been "shared" over 70 times, and I was surprised to see all the support from friends and family and followers about it and my writing endeavors. 
So thanks.
Painting by BreatheKeepBreathing

  • Yesterday, I hit page 500 of 700+ on the second draft of my manuscript. (Please note that my manuscript is doubled-spaced in courier font. It wouldn't be as large as 700+ pages in book form.) I'm way happy with how this novel is coming along.  It still has a long way to go, but I feel like it's on the right course. I've fixed a lot of plot problems and some character and viewpoint ones.
  • I've penned a rough draft plot description of my novel. You can find it on My Novel page. Yeah, the book is still untitled.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Arrogance vs. Confidence, Self-deprecation vs. Humility

I once had a wise ballet teacher tell my class,

"The difference between confidence and arrogance is how you treat other people."

She's right. Sometimes I think society confuses confidence with pride. Likewise, society confuses humility with self-deprecation. In reality, it's completely possible to be confident and humble at the same time, without being prideful.

Arrogance vs. Confidence

People who are arrogant want themselves to succeed and be better than everyone else. On the other hand, people who are confident want themselves and everyone around them to succeed.

Let's take two characters from one of my favorite childhood shows, Dragon Ball Z to illustrate.

Vegeta's defining characteristic is arrogance--and he flaunts it. All of his goals and actions stem from his desire to be better than everyone else. He frequently treats those less powerful than him as garbage. He even puts his own wants before his wife and son. He shows no mercy; he's ruthless. He's full of himself and fully selfish.

Goku, on the opposite side of the spectrum, is confident. He wants himself and his friends to succeed. He cheers them on, treats them well, and despite being the most powerful person in the world, doesn't put himself above others.

(In contrast to Vegeta, he's very merciful. He always provides opportunities for villains to stand down. He's quick to forgive.)

Goku believes in his talents and abilities, but he's also teachable. He acknowledges his shortcomings and overcomes them. He's eager to learn from those more powerful than him, and he submits to whatever needs to be done. Goku is confident and humble. (Not self-deprecating.)

So, confidence and arrogance depend on how you regard others. When you start dissecting this, it  makes sense. Confidence comes from security. When we are secure of ourselves, we don't feel threatened by others' successes. Why would we? We're secure. (Remember, you don't have to be perfect to be secure.)

Arrogance, pride, conceit, ironically, doesn't actually come from being too confident, but from insecurity--a fear that if others succeed, we have less value. Pride and selfishness are also linked. When we don't want others to succeed, we're being selfish.