1. CobaltLion
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    CobaltLion Member

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    Finding a "voice."

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by CobaltLion, Aug 25, 2008.

    I've been working on my novel for a bit, and recently hit a landmark section in which I introduce two new characters that are going to become very central to the continuing plot.

    When I started this story a while ago, it was designed as another part of a series of short stories I had done over the years. I added this one character; (a hyper intelligent lion that's the result of a highly classified gov't project.) (Don't ask, it's complicated. :) ) He sounded great I thought. When I decided to expand the entire short story into a novel, I started out from the beginning. It's all written in 1st person, mostly from the MC's perspective. In order to advance the plot and show the reader some of the other things going on outside of the MC's POV I occasionally change who the "narrator" is for a given section.

    The problem I have is now, a year after introducing the new character, I've come to a part where I need to narrate from his POV, And he sounds choppy.

    By "Choppy" I mean he sounds like his dialogue was forced out and doesn't flow smoothly with the rest of the characters. I'm trying to figure out how to find his "voice," how he sounds in the dialogue. (Since it's essentially all dialogue.

    Are there any methods for making a character sound more natural and not like I pulled his dialogue out of my head with a toilet plunger? I hate to say it, but I'm not entirely sure what kind of help I'm asking for, but this has me stalled on my work, and it's frustrating.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    How about doing some people watching. Listen to how they actually talk, and take notes if you can. Listen not only to the words, but also the pauses.

    That's advice I usually see for dialogue, but it's also applicable to character driven narration.
     
  3. CobaltLion
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    CobaltLion Member

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    I'm going to have to try that. Maybe go someplace tonight and just listen to people talk for a while. I hadn't really considered that approach to dialogue but it seems like it would work.

    Thanks!
     
  4. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    Sit and hold a mental conversation with this character. Talk with him. Just the two of you. Sounds kind of nutty, like you're talking to yourself (you are), but what better way to get to know him more? Maybe he doesn't sound natural because you're trying to force YOUR words out of his mouth (dictating the way you think he SHOULD speak), rather than just letting him talk for himself. It's a common mistake...I do it to my characters sometimes, and always end up promptly backspacing. :redface:

    You don't even have to talk about anything momentous or having to do with the story; just converse with him and listen to how he talks. Don't make him talk like you, don't make him talk like somebody you've heard on the street; let him talk like himself. Listening to other people can help you understand different forms of dialogue more but in the end, you have to figure out how THIS character talks, without forcing him to sound like somebody else. So let him talk to you. It might help. *shrug*
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Also keep in mind that there is an author's voice as well as narrative voice. The author's voice is a distinctive writing style that engages readers, and carries over among different writings. Developing the author's voice is a never ending quest.
     
  6. CobaltLion
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    CobaltLion Member

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    These are very good ideas. I agree, I am very much trying to force my words into this characters mouth.

    I did what Cogito suggested last night, and it helped to expose me to what others sound like, now I think I need to do your part. Take that jumble of voices at the mall and pick out my charcters voice from my head.Sort of "filter" it a little with my immagination.

    Thanks and best regards. :)

    (btw, I love Mackinac Island too. [ex-michiganian here])
     
  7. Fatalism
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    Fatalism Member

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    Base their voice on their personality. A character's way of speech is important.

    etc: Shy?
    'Why?' she asked, slightly blushing.

    Take a look at how some characters talk and try searchign up some strong adverbs.
     
  8. ABMiller86
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    ABMiller86 Member

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    Having not read the story it is hard to see what you are talking about with the dialogue... but i will say something stressed to me when i was writing by my grandpa was that dont be afraid to be your character... maybe the reason your character sounds so choppy and forced is because you have been writing as the narrator (essentially you) for so long that now that your story is being told from your character his voice has been lost (if ever found) in the scramble.

    I would really recommend getting to know who your character is, how he acts, who he is... and then dont be afraid to act the scene out...
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's a bit of a circular argument, though. Your character comes from within your head, and your thoughts tend to be in your own voice. If you merely "listen to your character", he or she is very likeluy t sound a lot like you.

    That is why you need to peoplewatch and consciously "lift" speech patterns from people who share common traits with your character. Don't just trust your memory, either, because that to mingles voices you have heard with your own voice.
     
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Basically this is what you must do. Break into a genetics lab, force the scientist to genetically splice human genes with a lion, until they successfully create an intelligent talking lion. Then convince the lion to write those parts. That should do it.
     

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