1. jonchoo
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    jonchoo Banned

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    Describing type of voices

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jonchoo, Sep 1, 2010.

    I have problems with describing voice, take this for an example,
    "I do not know how to describe voices," he said
    the word SAID doesn't really gives much expression to the sentence, can give some examples on voice???
     
  2. L. Ai
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    L. Ai Member

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    People will tell you that 'said' is the best and really the only word you should use when you have to say... well, 'said'. But as a reader, I find it annoying. If the story is well written you should be able to tell easily who said what, making having to tag the dialogue like that pretty rare. What I too like to see is discreptions of how the characters express themselves. As with anything you must be careful not to overdo it, but for example;

    "That's impossible!" He said.

    "That's impossible!" He gasped.

    "That's impossible!" He snarled.

    Conjure up completely different reactions of the character don't you think?

    If you're looking for expressions, look up a general list of facial expressions, our body language is very much tied to vocal inflection.

    Brainstorm up some lists; (by volume) mouthed, whispered, hissed, gasped, murmured, muttered, growled, snapped, snarled, called, yelled, shouted, shrieked.

    Hope I read your question right...
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm with L.Ai I like to know the tone and how things are said as well. Often that can be done with the words in the conversation but every so often I add he said sternly, his tone was calm, holler, he sobs, he sniffs, she whispers seductively, he leans forward and says menancingly (sp??) etc

    They are the ones todays edit has left in.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't even try. If you really feel compelled to mention that someone has an unusual voice, bring it up early in the story as someone's reaction to the voice.

     
  5. jonchoo
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    jonchoo Banned

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    Wow, thanks for the tip guys.
     
  6. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    The word "said" is one of those invisible words, like "the" or "a". The idea is that with sufficient practice, a writer can develop characters through their word choices and their actions, and the dialogue tag "said" is invisible so it gets out of the way.

    We aren't talking about voice quality -- the deepness, roughness, long os, rounded vowels or whatever -- because when you read, you aren't able to hear any of that unless you're listening to an audiobook (and depending on the skill of the reader, maybe not then). So we use body language descriptors and in-character description to set the characters apart through their 'voice'.

    How do your characters indicate strong emotion? Trembling hands, blinking, a facial tic, getting red in the face, going very still? How often do they speak, and with what level of complexity? How much formal education do they have, or specialized? A painter might notice colors and shading more than a professional scribe would, or someone from the rural areas might have a better idea of what noises individual birds are making while a city slicker just notes that the birds are out.

    I'll post some examples later -- got to get going soon.
     
  7. white
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    white Banned

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    I think if you have to rely on dressing up dialogue tags you haven't done a good job expressing the character's feelings.

    I look at it this way: I know I'm reading good stuff when I can visualize a dirty, humid apartment and the writer has never mentioned either dirty or humid.

    So much can be said without actually saying it.
     
  8. L. Ai
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    L. Ai Member

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    Yeah, but you have to say something! Answer the question, don't say not to ask it.

    Dialogue tags are useful, we all have to start somewhere. Better a slightly awkward tag your eyes can gloss over than having to stop and reread a page twice to make sure you know who said what. I've seen a simple tag speak volumes about a character.
     
  9. white
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    white Banned

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    I forgot to mention this in my earlier post. Anyway, I think this example goes along with what I'm saying: these dialogue tags give three different impressions of the character, no doubt, but that's because there is no context. If there was a paragraph or a page about how the character was moody, then would snarled really be necessary? I'm inclined to say no.

    Personally, I just use said as a dialogue tag. It is an invisible word, like Heinlein said.

    /irony
     
  10. L. Ai
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    L. Ai Member

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    *headdesk*

    I think, White, what we have here is not so much a failure to communicate as it is ships passing in the night. We're having two different conversations. Jonchoo wasn't asking if he should use dialogue tags. Jonchoo was asking for dialogue tags.

    It's really all about balance, I think. Some people prefer to exposite on their characters personalities, some prefer to show through action. There is a time and a place for dialogue tags, just like every spice has it's use depending on the meal. You don't like em? Don't use em. You don't like to read em? You'll probably miss out on some things. I know I can't bear to read dialogue put in '...' instead of "...", even though it is an equally valid ...whatever the heck those things are called. But I don't go around telling people "I don't think you should do it that way, this way is much easier to read." When they were asking me about spelling.

    Not to be a topic nazi or anything.

    I was going to suggest something else Jonchoo, but now I've gone and forgotten what it was. OH! Someone else who might know some expressive words for...um... words... might be someone in theater, a teacher or director or someone.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Tone it down, please, L Ai. John did not appear to have a problem with the answers given, and sometimes it's better to address the assumptions behind the question rather than answering the question as asked.

    Few things will brand a writer as an amateur like obsessively substituting other verbs for the simple tag verbs said or asked.

    Sure, there are times that another verb fits better, but the majority of the time, you should stick to the basic, nearly invisible tag verbs.
     
  12. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't use dialogue tags normally but I do add a hint about how the tone could be interpreted.

    "Are you sure" she said, and Marco wasn't sure if is there was a hint of a threat in her voice.
    "I'm sure." he said, keeping his tone diplomatic.
     
  13. Manofkent
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    Manofkent Member

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    I had/have this same problem.
    I have a page of my note book full of words and phrases that describe voice.
    Another quick tip. if you cant think of one and you want to go back to it late write 'said*'. as in,
    'Help!' he said*

    That way later on you can search your document for 'said*' and fill the gaps.
     
  14. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    I have no problem with using others tags, unless they get too silly ('he promulgated', or 'she asseverated'), or if used more than sparingly. Most of the time I don't use tags at all.

    (In my work in progress, currently at 29,000 words, I've used 'said' 101 times, 'asked' 20 times and 'replied' 30 times, along with a few others dotted around, including 'snarled', 'growled' and the nigh-heretical 'cried' (13 times!). Incidentally, I'd be interested to see how many times these kinds of words crop up in anyone else's ms.)

    I have some questions though, mostly to do with dialogue delivered in a very short space of time, and I'm looking for opinions rather than the 'done thing' - say a character shouts out a warning (e.g. "Watch out") very quickly. You want the call to be snappy and without any delay. How would you communicate that it was shouted, rather than just said?

    Also, if a character snaps back instantly, how would you indicate this? You can't physically have the words come out of the page any quicker, as they would do out of a mouth in real life, so how would you do this without saying 'she snapped'?
     
  15. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    A technique you could consider is not to have anything at all. For example:

    "Did you call him in the middle of the night?" Anna asked.
    "Yep. Hey, I understand congratulations are in order. Congratulations."
    "Thanks."
    "You, um, feeling okay?"
    "Yes, thank you."
    "When are you due?"
    "March."
    "Boy or a girl?"
    "Waiting to be surprised."

    From this, you get the impression she's snapping back with short, sharp answers, using only a few words. I think if you used snapped somewhere here it would be too much. Not using anything at all is sometimes for effective.

    But I don't know, that's just a suggestion. Good luck
     
  16. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do not rely on tags at the end of dialogue to describe voice. The mood of the speaker should be evident from what is being said whithin the quotation marks not what is added outside of them.
    'I do not know how to describe voices.' he said
    'I don't have a flipping clue how to describe voices.' he said
    'I don't know and I don't care how to discribe voices.' he said
    'I wish I knew how to discribe voices.' he said
    'I couldn't give a flying ..... about descibing voices' he said

    Hope that helps
     
  17. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    Yes that does sound good, although it's not entirely what I meant - I meant like how someone will answer back almost before the question has even been finished.

    "Do ye have the money?"
    "Aye, of course I have the money."

    It's not so much the tone of voice I'm trying to indicate here - more the lack of any gap at all between the two lines of speech.
     
  18. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can always indicate that the person has cut in, choose your words to show mood, or use body language:

    'So, how are things going with Matt now--'
    'I'd rather not talk about that, Tom.'
    He noticed Sara's hands clench into fists.
    'Sure, no problem.' He tried to keep his voice neutral. 'Well, I don't expect you'll find there have been many changes in your absence...' Tom cleared his throat with a dry, embarrassed bark.
    Sara lumbered to her feet, knocking the ashtray off the table. 'Of course not. We're back to being one big unhappy family again, aren't we?'
    She stomped out of the office, kicking the ashtray from her path as she went.
     
  19. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    I usually don't have a problem with tags such as "asked" or "yelled" ("ejaculated", I have trouble taking seriously). But, if the entire page has tags like that, it gives me a bit of an eyesore. But, repeated "said's" seem well... repetitive.
     
  20. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This kind of advice is too prescriptive. The same words can be said with many different moods. The occasional descriptive non-"said" tag can help immensely. The writer only winds up in trouble when he overuses them.
     
  21. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I only repeated 'he said' each time to show that the tone of the speech could be made to sound different with the same tag on the end.
    What I was trying to convey was that you do not need words like angry, slyly,
    meekly etc. to show how the character is feeling.
     
  22. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    Remember you can also use the 'show not tell' method to add extra clues to your description, without requiring a thesaurus.
    e.g.
    "It's time to leave," Martin said, his eyes flicking toward the door. I could see the sweat beading on his forehead.

    "It's time to leave," said the bouncer, taking a step towards me and folding his arms.

    Nick only said, "It's time to leave!" as we hauled the last of the bags into the back of the car.
     

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