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katiemac
09-20-2009, 12:29 AM
What do you do to improve voice, especially in a first or third person limited where the voice is the character's? Any tips or tricks? What helps you get inside your character's head?

Karen Junker
09-20-2009, 12:33 AM
I'm struggling with this right now. What I've been doing is trying to find voicey writers to read. I'm also flipping through reality TV shows to get some ideas, but I doubt that's an official Writing Related Activity.

Aggy B.
09-20-2009, 01:14 AM
What do you do to improve voice, especially in a first or third person limited where the voice is the character's? Any tips or tricks? What helps you get inside your character's head?

I start by forgetting everything I know about sentence fragments, comma splices and semi-colons. I understand the whole "you have to know the rules before you can break them" but in general, breaking the rules of grammar is key to getting that feeling of authentic voice. Because it needs to read like someone's thoughts or speech which really almost never follow any sort of grammatical rule. (Cleaning it back up into something that has rhythm and "voice" and is readable can be done later. It's easier to start at the extreme and then tone it down than it is to go the other way.)

Then I think about what things might influence the way someone talks/tells a story. Education? Cultural influences? Slang? Swearing? Outgoing/introverted?

And uh, then I start to write. It gets easier after a while. I met a lady who used to write journals (stream of consciousness stuff) in different voices. If I recall she would start writing and as she felt the voice shift to a different "character" she would switch to a pen with a different color. (Not that I do that, but that was part of her method.)

I also find that even if I plan to write a story in 3rd person close POV it sometimes helps to write a couple paragraphs in 1st person because there is something about writing "I woke up and discovered the world had dissolved while I was busy dreaming about watermelon pizza and the hooker down on Main Street," that gives me a feel for a character's language.

Amarie
09-20-2009, 01:16 AM
I use an exercise in a workshop I teach where I have everyone write down five different sorts of character, young girl, teenage boy, old man, etc., and then think about what they would notice if they were sitting on a park bench observing the park, and the people in it. Each person would focus on different things while ignoring other things. A young girl might notice pets if she likes animals. She most likely won't notice what people are wearing. An old man might see someone who reminds him of a friend he had long ago, or be annoyed at some loud music.

This helps because it is so easy to lose the reader as soon as you slip out of the voice, by describing something in a way the character never would.

Cyia
09-20-2009, 01:25 AM
Find an actor or character who "sounds" like your character and "hear" the story in their voice.

katiemac
09-20-2009, 01:32 AM
I guess part of it is that my POV character is fairly introverted, at least for a bit, so that might be part of it. I'm in first draft mode so the voice isn't the priority at the moment (just, you know, writing is the priority) but there are places already I want to go back and really infuse them with better voice.

A lot of it has to do with breaking the wall between a plain narrator and the character. I'm pretty comfortable with average description, but not all that happy with the passages that rely on emotional response. During conversation, my character should be reacting (internally) to what the other person is saying.

maestrowork
09-20-2009, 01:48 AM
You really have to get into the character's skin to assume that voice. I can't see any other way. (For me, it's easy because my characters talk to me -- yeah, give me the tinfoil hat -- so I already hear their voices.)

It's easier for 1st person. With close 3rd person, sometimes I write in 1st person first, then switch to 3rd.

Karen Junker
09-20-2009, 01:51 AM
Now that I think about it, UF author Mark Henry suggested I rewrite my whole story in first person - which I did - then I rewrote it back into 3rd. It did help me get a little voicier. But nobody's as voicey as Mark...

Kathleen42
09-20-2009, 02:11 AM
Sounds cheesy but I have playlists for each WiP and each playlist has a number of songs that reflect a character's personality. Listening to the right song makes me feel like I'm getting under the character's skin.

Of course, being unpublished, how well this method works is up for debate.

Kitty27
09-20-2009, 02:37 AM
My characters speak to me. Yes,I am crazy as all outdoors. Each has a distinctive voice and personality. None are exactly alike. I can write in each of their voices with no problems.

Kathleen,I do the same thing with music. I have everything from a vampire who listens to gangster rap to a necromancer who only listens to old school R&B and blues. Music helps a lot.

Brutal Mustang
09-20-2009, 03:43 AM
I completely become my character. So much, that it affects my attitude in real life--right now I'm writing one who never apologizes, never doubts himself, and never misses an opportunity to be sarcastic, among other things--can you guess how I've been behaving lately?

backslashbaby
09-20-2009, 03:47 AM
I just started the 1st person thing the other day and so far I can think much closer to my character. It won't stay in 1st, but it doesn't look like it will be too hard to change. I'm glad to hear that other folks do that!

icerose
09-20-2009, 04:37 AM
Whenever my voice doesn't sound right it's usually because I haven't developed my characters enough. If my characters are fully developed, they have a strong unique voice.

Toothpaste
09-20-2009, 06:00 AM
Like someone else said, I find a character on tv or film that suits the voice. Then, and this is probably the actor in me, I practice imitating them aloud. Then I dictate the story aloud to myself in that voice and write it down at the same time. If that makes sense. If this is the narrator, I tend to eventually fall into the voice easier and easier each time just by habit, and then I don't have to speak aloud as much. But if I hit a trouble spot, I can always go back to that.

Fortunately I can do this in the privacy of my apartment. Some of my accents are terrible.

kaitie
09-20-2009, 06:28 AM
I do the music thing, too. :) So you're not weird. Well, maybe you are, but you aren't the only weird one.

As for voice, it depends on the story. Typically, however, I let the character run around in my head for awhile, and start writing in my head. I only actually start anything on paper once I'm comfortable with that and have a good idea of who he is. Each story is different, however. My next story is told first person from a character with a very specific voice. It's not too difficult to just get inside his head and write the way he would. My last story was harder because it was third person and I wanted to actually keep a bit of distance between the characters and the reader. Not an easy thing to do,and whether or not I did it effectively is still up for grabs. Because of that, however, most of the voice comes through the MCs actual dialogue, and he has a very distinctive, goofy personality. The writing itself is pretty minimalistic, particularly in the early chapters. It's an unusual way to tell a story, but each story's different.

KTC
09-20-2009, 04:18 PM
You really have to get into the character's skin to assume that voice. I can't see any other way. (For me, it's easy because my characters talk to me -- yeah, give me the tinfoil hat -- so I already hear their voices.)

It's easier for 1st person. With close 3rd person, sometimes I write in 1st person first, then switch to 3rd.

ditto what ray ray said. i wear their skin, light on the chianti and fava beans, mind you. i get into their heads and become them while i'm writing them. and i listen to all the words they say in my head.

kct webber
09-20-2009, 04:46 PM
I'm with Ray and KTC here. Think like an actor. Wear your character. :)

brokenfingers
09-20-2009, 04:50 PM
Put me down also on the "get into your character" list.

To me, it's basically the same as acting. You become the character and then just write what you think/feel. The voice will naturally display itself.

Amarie
09-20-2009, 05:02 PM
I think getting into the character's skin is great if you can do it, but don't feel that's the only way if you are reading this and you just can't imagine that. I don't become my characters at all, and they don't speak to me. I approach it a much different way, more analytical, I guess you could say. As long as you can find a method to write the story from the character's viewpoint, you'll get the voice. Whatever works!

C.M.C.
09-20-2009, 05:53 PM
I've never done anything to work on voice. I like my natural voice, so I don't feel the need to do anything about it. If I were in a different position, I'm not sure I would do anything about it anyway, since I think it would be tremendously difficult work to overcome your natural way of writing. I'm sure it's possible, but it doesn't seem worth the effort to me.

Red-Green
09-20-2009, 07:47 PM
I definitely practice "becoming" that character. Change the way I move, spend a lot of time in conversation thinking first of how the character would behave in that conversation. The MC in my current WIP doesn't talk much, so I've been practicing being silent or making do with the bare minimum of words. That way when I'm writing her (in close 3rd), I know what it's like to weigh every thought as to whether it's worth saying out loud.

maestrowork
09-20-2009, 08:10 PM
IAs long as you can find a method to write the story from the character's viewpoint, you'll get the voice. Whatever works!

Viewpoint is not the same as voice, though. And I have a feeling that's why a lot of writers have characters that sound the same...

Amarie
09-20-2009, 08:47 PM
Viewpoint is not the same as voice, though. And I have a feeling that's why a lot of writers have characters that sound the same...


I should have specified what part of 'voice' I was talking about. I didn't mean the dialogue part of voice. For me that just comes from figuring out how each character would speak based on their background and age. I define voice in a broad way, to mean drawing the reader into the work so he/she feels part of that world. To me how a character iinteracts with other characters, the setting and the events that happen to them is all part of voice.

BigWords
09-21-2009, 04:38 AM
Not that I don't believe I have a particular 'voice', but I find that my sentence structure, vocabulary and even the length of sentences can alter between genres, and is most noticeable when I'm trying not to write as if I was saying the material.

Hell... even my spelling changes depending on wether I'm writing something set in the US or the UK. 'Voice' can be hard to pin down, especially when the variables (era of story, genre, MC alignment, the weather outside when I'm typing) all play into the mix.

Cassiopeia
09-21-2009, 04:43 AM
What do you do to improve voice, especially in a first or third person limited where the voice is the character's? Any tips or tricks? What helps you get inside your character's head?In my mind, I switch to viewer mode. I see them through my mind's eyes. Their thoughts, their feelings, how they move. I all but become them. I block out my own prejudice, my own opinions and I suppose it's a bit like role playing or acting.

katiemac
09-24-2009, 08:19 AM
Okay, so let's change gears a little bit. How do you know when an author has a good voice? Is it a "know it when you see it" kind of thing? What authors do you consider to have great voice?

Exir
09-24-2009, 10:20 AM
Markus Zusak has an awesome, distinctive voice that you can spot from miles away, the best example being The Book Thief.

megan_d
09-24-2009, 10:23 AM
I think fantasy darling Patrick Rothfuss has fantastic voice. I suspect that's why 'The Name Of The Wind' is being described everywhere as fresh and new, it's not that the story itself is startingly origial, it's just that really unique voice is, sadly, not all to common in the fantasy genre.

~*Kate*~
09-24-2009, 10:59 AM
I was skimming The Stand the other day and marveling at how many distinct voices King manages in that. Frannie, Stu and Larry stand out in my mind.

CaroGirl
09-24-2009, 04:49 PM
Every time I write in a character's POV I keep in mind where they come from, their background, life philosophy, belief system, and overall perspective. For example, in my WiP I have the POV of an artist and I have him always see the world in a very visual way. His world is one of movement and colour, contours and shading.

brokenfingers
09-24-2009, 09:30 PM
Hmmm, I think it's a pretty subjective thing. I know there are author's whose voice I strongly identify with, but others find boring or can't relate - and vice versa.

For instance, I can't stand Stephen King's writing because of his voice. To me he meanders too much and goes off on tangents that wind up boring me. But obviously others love that about him.