1. essilyn
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    essilyn New Member

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    describing someone's voice

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by essilyn, Jun 22, 2009.

    Does anybody know a really cool way to describe the sound of someone's voice and the way they talk? Any good adjective's to use? I was thinking about it and I always seem to use the same boring words or descriptions. Thank you in advance!:love:

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  2. S-wo
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    S-wo Member

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    It depends, does the person have an accent?
  3. essilyn
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    essilyn New Member

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    American
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies iModerate Staff Member Supporter Reviewer Contributor

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    As S-wo has asked already, does the person have an accent? If not, is there a reason for the mention and/or description of the person's speech mannerism? If not, you might just be manhandling the reader into hearing what you hear in your head.
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Best bet? Don't try. If you must, do it through the reactions of other characters to the voice.

    Overreliance on adjectives and adverbs does not make good writing. You can use them to a degree, of course, but thet aren't a cure-all. A good verb choice can help more, but don't get too creative with dialogue tags. Trying too hard to use a variety of verbs in dialogue tags is usually painful to read.
  6. Maroon
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    Maroon Member

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    Hi essilyn

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you say it's easy to use the same boring terms over and over. It isn't just you, though; it's a trap we all fall into, since a large proportion of most novels will centre around dialogue. You're right to want to mix it up a little and stay clear of too many cliches.

    Rather than me shoving a load of new words in your face and saying "use these", my suggestions are:

    1. Keep your ears open to the conversations going on around you every day. It's easier to describe an accent or voice you've actually heard than to make one up out of a puff of smoke.

    2. Read as much as you can. That way, you'll see lots of new and interesting ways of describing voices, items, scenarios, what have you. I'm not suggesting you copy this stuff, but you'll increase your vocabulary which will help tons in the long run.

    Hope this helps!

    M.
  7. Maroon
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    Maroon Member

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    Yeah, this is very true, too.

    And I think most readers prefer the author to simply sketch a few details of the character, leaving plenty of blanks for the readers to fill, rather than defining every little aspect.
  8. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan New Member

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    You could use similes and metaphors (His voice was like thunder, her voice was like the waves crashing against the sand), but the problem with this method, like using adverbs and adjectives, is that it can start to sound kind of forced and way too flowery and pointless, so use caution.
  9. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    There are certain conventions (like Spanish/MExican people trilling their 'r's) but beyond that, its just a matter of you describing the sound you want. But, as Cog said, its probably not a great idea to try to describe the voice itself. As well as making it tedious to read, you probably won't even get the readers thinking of the same sound you imagine anyway - in most books, where the voice isn't described, readers just fill one in that makes sense for the character; if you try to describe the voice and the description isn't perfect, then more than likely it will just frustrate or confuse the reader as they try to get your voice and fail, rather than attaching a suitable voice themselves.
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I usually don't describe a voice unless I feel it adds to the character, then it is something simple like, he said in a deep voice.
  11. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Member

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    Unless you're using accented dialogue, which I think isn't such a good idea, you should simply allude to the area the character's from, or if you're describing the quality of the voice, allow it to come out through internal reaction, or brief narrative description. Give your reader the credit they deserve and allow them create their own impressions.
  12. Rose
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    Rose New Member

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    Giving characters a voice

    Im in the middle of writing a story, and im stuck for ways to describe one of the charater's voices.

    The protagonist is basically dreaming about a girl, and in the dream he hears her speak, but im stuck for how to describe it.

    It's set in a place about 200 or so ago. She's poor and a thief, her familiar is a wolf, and she has to deal with lots of problems in her life... and the protagonist thinks she is beautiful, and he is almost in love with her already.

    Anyways. the protagonist was describing her voice I was trying to think up a metaphor for it... but my mind is blank on this one

    Any help, or suggestions would be awesome.

    Thanks
  13. edens garden
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    edens garden New Member

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    You seem to have a vivid past for this girl, use that. Mention how some aspect or emotion of her experiences can be heard in her voice, an "it's not what you say it's how you say it" approach.
  14. gsclove
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    gsclove New Member

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    you could say he/she has a deep, resonant voice;
    A voice as smooth as silk;
    they could speak with perfect grammer/ slur his/her words;
    throaty voice/ squeaky voice;
    their voice cracks
    The character could have a 'lilt' in their voice.

    And my personal favorite: a husky voice. lol

    hope that helped! :)
  15. Rumpole40k
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    Rumpole40k Banned

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    Don't do it. Let the character's words tell the reader what they sound like, otherwise it is just you getting in the characte's way.
  16. Aidura
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    Aidura New Member

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    I really have a hard time when I read that particular description in any book. I know that you shouldn't take similes literally but I always struggle and fail to imagine a voice as smooth as silk. Maybe it's because I haven't had the opportunity to hear a 'smooth' voice and have another person tell me: "Now that's a voice as smooth as silk.

    Usually I ignore (or more frequently, forget) whatever voice descriptions provided for the characters and I'll just let their personalities voice themselves.

    I do feel guilty for not really following the author's image though.
  17. The-Joker
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    The-Joker New Member Contributor

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    How about this. Don't describe her voice, describe the sound of her laughter. That's something your MC can fall in love with.
  18. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot New Member Contributor

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    I struggle with this too. That's why all my characters have a "deep, gravelly voice." Men, women, babies... It's becoming a problem.
  19. Vampire
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    Vampire New Member

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    Their accent helps a lot, also the pitch of their voice.
  20. Evelyanin
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    Evelyanin New Member

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    Trying showing it in the dialogue instead. The vocabulary has a lot to do with it. If you are angry your voice might have a louder, even rougher sound to it, but if you are trying to munipulate someone your voice may have a sweeter, smoother sound to it. At the same time, a kind character saying kind things will have a sweeter voice, while the bad guy will sound like a bad guy. In real life this doesn't really work this way, but while reading we assign voices to the characters in our head. The writing should reflect that. If you want your character to have a nice sounding voice, try letting her talk with a rich and sophisticated vocabulary. At the same time, don't let it sound snobby, because if you do, it will sound like she's talking with her nose stuck up in the air. If you want a rougher voice, make it sound a little bit more uneducated, use a bit of slang here and there. It is completely stereotypical, but it actually works.
  21. Ghosts in Latin
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    Ghosts in Latin New Member

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    It depends on the situation.

    For example, if someone's voice plays a big part in the feel of the character, then I think taking a bit of effort to describe his voice is worth it. For example, if there is a very large, intimidating man, taking the time to describe his voice as if it were a roll of thunder, or some other such thing, is good.

    I think what everyone has said, so far, is good advice — but you should factor it all in to your decision, depending on the situation you're writing about, rather than take one as a rule.
  22. Iron Pen
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    Iron Pen New Member

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    You could describe her voice as familiar, like that of a close childhood friend.
    Or say that her voice has unearthly quality, or seems to be calling from his past.
    Or as faint and distant.
    Dreamlike, ghostly, grave and serious.
    Warm, soft, or so grating and headsplitting that it makes you want to follow Da Vinci's lead and cut off your own ear (which recent evidence shows that he may have cut off his ear because of some serious ear infection or chronic pain in his ear, not because he was mad).

    Also you can always describe their tone or their body gestures as they speak, such as:
    "Oh, your home early?" asked the wife suspiciously in a quiet voice, raising her eyebrows at the sight of his conspicuous lack of one shoe.
  23. Vagabond284
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    Vagabond284 New Member

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    A good way to portray voices, I've found, is when the character first speaks, use a couple of power words. For example:

    "Welcome to hell," the gruff marine grunted in a dark, gravelly voice, his eyes shadowed under the brim of his helmet.

    or

    "Welcome to heaven," the resort greeter chimed, her voice mellow and light, matching the smile in her eyes.


    That way, the instant your character speaks next, the reader's mind clicks into the established voice. And maybe once per appearance, you can put in a subtle reminder, like:

    "Damned kids," the marine grunted darkly.

    or

    "Love kids," the resort greeter nearly sang.


    See how the image of of dark instant reminds you of the gravelly, gruff voice of the marine, and the image of singing and light joviality reminds you of the mellow voice of the greeter?

    The key is to not ram it down the reader's throat. Treat your audience as intelligent and able to follow a hint :)
  24. Atari
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    Atari Member

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    I have found that writing - like animation - is something that you have to use EXTREMES on for something to have a profound effect.

    If a person has a regular voice, then there is really no reason to describe it.
    If he has a particularly deep or captivating voice, then you can describe it, but it may not be retained in the reader's memory.

    However, if you make the character have a greatly unique voice, that you can even write out, or that makes the characters consider it almost every time he speaks, or makes new characters turn their heads in surprise, well; THEN you have a noticeable, intriguing trait that can be used for comedy or to make a character stand out.

    You might -say- that someone has an Australian accent, but to write it out is just fun, and can lead to some interesting conversations.
    I once spoke to a real Australian and he used some common terms associated with Australians, but he used one word that was so odd that I had to ask him what it meant, and then I said, "You're just doing that on purpose, now."

    It wouldn't really be possible to write that unless you actually wrote his accent.

    My two cents, regarding just one section of the vast slice of pizza we call English.


    Edit: I also agree wholeheartedly with Vagabond. He has the right idea.
  25. Kirvee
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    Kirvee New Member

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    I don't typically describe voices unless:

    1. It provides insight to that character's personality (for example, someone who's been a thief all their life might have a slight edge or harshness to their voice, compared to someone who's lived in the lap of luxary all their life and has grown arrogant of that fact)

    2. The character is not visually present in the scene and their voices are the only thing to distinguish them from regular characters

    or

    3. If they have an accent (it's kinda crucial at that point)


    Although, I've found that using musical terms to describe voices works well too. Example: "smooth baritone", "resounding alto", "lilting soprano", "vibrating tenor", "echoing bass", etc.
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