Playing with characters and voice

There’s been a common theme in blogs posts I’ve seen lately. That theme being Voice. The ‘how-to” and “what is it” of writing, crafting, finding the all important Voice. This got me thinkin’. How do I find, use, write, craft Voice?

Bear with me as I get a wee bit fragmented.

I’m sure you’ve surmised by now that I haven’t had any real writerly training. Not sure if you can count high school English as that was a looooong time ago. Not gonna tell you HOW long. HA! Anyway, I HAVE read loads of bits on finding Voice and how to make the best of it and all that jazz. The problem is, I learn by doing. Yeah, I’m one of those people who have to DO IT to get it. I can read instructions till I’m blue in the face, but until I do it, I’m lost.

So how does a learn-by-doing lass learn how to craft Voice? Depends. I firmly believe that an Authorial Voice will just happen. It’s like finding the perfect pair of jeans. You’ll try different styles on, but either the hips are too snug, the hem too long, the thighs too loose, blah blah blah… until you scream in the changing room. But once you find that elusive pair of jeans, it’s like the clouds part and angels begin to sing. Everything just….fits.

Now, a character’s Voice… That’s a little trickier. Characters have to feel real, speak real, laugh real, sigh real, burp real. I may have thrown that last bit in there, but hey, if your characters DO burp, it has to be real!My compadre Alisha has a great post on doing character studies here. Check it out! She’s awesome. And I’ve tried the character studies and/or profile worksheets. They work for me on the technical stuff like hobbies and physical traits, but I cannot (for the life of me) glean any sort of TRUE personality from a worksheet. It feels too stale and flat to me.

So I reach back into my theater roots and create my character’s Voice by ACTING them out. Yup, you read right. I get all Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino up in here! The basics are exactly the same: Who, What, Where, Why and How. Thank you, Mrs. Jordan, for beating these into us during class. The difference is in the implementation. Sure, you write out the basics (just like a character worksheet) but instead of the character coming alive first on paper, the character comes alive in YOU. They don’t just SPEAK through you, they ARE you.

How to achieve this sort of multiple personality disorder loveliness? Preferably alone. Writers are known for being a little off-kilter, but no reason to confirm it for anyone. *wink* Seriously, grab a scene from the mini-movie already running in your head from your new bright-shiny WIP and get into character! The scene is there so pick your character, whether it’s the MC, the best friend, the love interest, the postman, and roll with it!

The best way for me to Voice-out a character is to ‘play act’ them during the scene. Speak the lines, use the gestures, roll the eyes, flip the hair, frown with them, smile with them, cry with them! DO IT! I’ve found this to be the best way, for me, to get a real feel for my characters and HOW they act and react. Does that gesture feel right with that dialogue? Yes or no? While speaking in their Voice, does my character have a tendency to do certain things? Like rub their chin, pick at their fingernails, chew the inside of their lip? Yes? Write it down! That is your character. Does your character place emphasis on certain words while speaking? Do they have an accent? Do they pace when frustrated?

If you’ve truly gotten into your character, all of these things will happen, because that is who they are. It will come natural. And when you’ve found the first Voice, the others will follow suit. Once you’ve established how character A says something, character B will have a natural reaction. It’s a lot like reading your MS out loud, but with the action in there as well. And many times you’ll find that certain actions during the dialogue will solve random issues you have in your writing. Do your CP’s mention something feeling awkward during the dialogue, like John Smith’s chronic collar-popping? Act it out in your character’s Voice. Does it feel natural? Yes? Maybe tone it down a notch. No? Ax it.

Scared to try it? Don’t be! You already have voices in your head, right? Well, now give those voices legs, arms, movement and swagger. Let them LIVE through you.

Still nervous? Try a dark room. Then you won’t feel so “in the spotlight.”

Besides, if anyone asks what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks you’re doing, you can honestly say you’re REHEARSING. And dramatics (aka theater folk) have a worse wrap than us writers. *snortle*

Now go get your schizophrenic on!

Fun with Avatars

When I got up this morning, I totally had the intention of working on my latest WIP. I didn’t have the opportunity ALL week to work on it and was going through a slight withdrawal. My creative juices were dammed up inside threatening to overwhelm me. It got so bad, I became slightly aggravated with everyone around me. It was weird, like a freak writers PMS thing.

The Kiddo is in the midst of potty training so this morning kind of got shot all to hell for writing. I couldn’t ‘get in the zone’ watching the clock, timing Kiddo’s trips to the potty so we avoided a mess. So after he went down for his nap I figured, “this is it!” Yeah, no. It didn’t happen. Why? ‘Cause I found this website…
But it all works out! I spent all afternoon working on my characters. I tell ya, it was a freakin’ BLAST!!! I highly recommend this to anyone who would like to get a semi-visual on the characters in their head. You know what they look like. You write about them, have done the character sheets, maybe some interviews, and you have this picture in your head. With this trick website I was able to sort of ‘flesh out’ my characters more.
Now, it’s not exact, but it comes pretty darned close. I would have liked more options with hair and colors, but it was still a lot of fun. Since I had so much fun, I thought I would share!
These kids here are the main characters from my WIP Fiáin , Bree and Kennon…
And my new WIP (tentatively titled Gifted) is centered around these cats here, Moira, Finlay and Devlin…
Moira, Devlin and Finlay
The best part of this character journey is really seeing your characters. Playing on FaceYourManga was too much fun and I will definitely keep this in mind the next time I feel like ‘fleshing out.’ It was a great exercise in making those voices in my head just a little more real…
Happy Writing!

The fine art of pretend play

For anyone who does not know me, which is likely to be the vast majority of anyone reading this, I have a small son. He turned two this summer and he is the light of my life. I know what you’re thinking…mom’s always say that. You very well may be correct, but I also meant it. Ten years ago I was not even sure I could have a child so Boog is like my little miracle baby.

Yikes! Before I start the boo-hooing let me get to the point of this post: pretend play.

Boog has finally entered the stage of his young life where he interacts with pretend play. You know, the stage in a young man’s (or lass’) life where they pretend to make a cake or pretend to drive their matchbox car on the “superhighway” in the living room or even pretend to “fly.” It is an amazing stage of development.

The power of human imagination never ceases to amaze me. Now I see it happening with my son and I am so thrilled! This is where the fun begins… We will get to build forts out of chairs and blankets and defend our turf from the nasty, snarling pirates who threaten our booty! YAAARRRGGGGGG! We may even get to rescue a damsel in distress from an evil tyrant who set a ginormous, scaly, fire-breathing dragon to guard her door! Egads!! The times we will have…

See I am a huge kid at heart and I suppose that is why I like fiction so much. I never grew out of my pretend play phase of development. I would like to think that is true of most, if not all, writers. We unlock the part of our brain that houses the pretend play and set it free into the world for all to pretend play with us. Not everyone has this ability and I think it is a fantastic one. It might even classify as a superpower! Do I dare hope…?

My DH has lost his pretend play ability, which I suppose is normal for some folk. He had it at one time I am certain, but then the left side of his brain claimed dibs and locked his over-active imagination away. There is nothing wrong with this so please do not get the wrong idea here. DH is fantastic with the logic stuff, which seems to elude me at times, so we make an equal balanced pair. Some people just ‘grow up’ while others, those like me (and quit kidding yourself, you’re in this group too), just…..don’t.

Fiction, especially the speculative fiction genres, allows us writers to keep a firm grasp on that inner child who still lives for pretend play. We need pretend play to survive in this crazy world of ours! We need that place, even if it’s just in our heads, where happy endings are a must, where the heroes win, where the villains lose, where magic is fully alive and well, where our deepest desires all come true and where we get to….well, pretend.

Am I looking forward to sharing the wonders of the imagination with my son? Abso-freakin-lutely! One day he will get big (I dare not say ‘grow up’) and he will make the decision to either sway toward the world of logic, reality, non-fiction or hold on to his inner child and continue the pretend play. Which do I prefer, you ask? It doesn’t matter. Because for now I have my little prince who will join me while we slay dragons, save the princess, rob the rich and give to the poor, leap tall buildings in a single bound, and every other bit that makes pretend play so much darned fun.