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  1. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale "Cue the artillery" Contributor

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    Exercises for shifting your "voice"?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Iain Aschendale, Jun 17, 2017 at 9:56 AM.

    I'm wondering if anyone has any tips for shifting/expanding your writer's "voice"? I've got a style, a voice that I'm fairly happy with, I think of it as my "Sofia Coppola" voice, that sort of soft-focus, slightly detached from the action feeling that pervades "Lost in Translation" and "The Virgin Suicides" movies.

    This is good, however, I've got a story in my mind that needs a hell of a lot more immediacy, it's a bit of an action SF/Horror, but every time I start writing it, I find I'm in that same semi-detached world, which is not where I need to be.

    I certainly don't exclusively read books that are in any one style, so it's not a lack of exposure to other views and styles. Any suggestions on how to push my boundaries in a different direction?
     
  2. izzybot

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Sometimes I'll develop a character with a drastically different voice from what I'm used to and focus on them for a while (in a few excercise shorts, say) to try to get into a fresh mindset, but I'm not sure if that's helpful if you're not accustomed to writing in close third or first.
     
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  3. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you find your writing affected by what you're reading? (I do--have to consciously shake it if the voice I've absorbed through recent reading doesn't fit what I'm writing). If you do, read a bunch of stuff in the style you want to use, and read it slowly with a lot of concentration to the individual words rather than letting yourself get caught up in the story.

    Might work?
     
  4. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm glad to see someone else admit to this other than me. :-D I'm super-mega-torn at the moment because of this. The books that I'm reading just now have a very spare, minimalist quality to the narrative that fits the pacing of the story wonderfully. But it's not how I write at all. I know that if I were to dive into new scenes right now they would feel very, very different to the scenes prior. I'm reading as fast as I can because I enjoy the books muchly, but want to get back to my work.
     
  5. Miscellaneous Worker

    Miscellaneous Worker Member

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    I like to make profiles of characters to better understand the story I have prepared for them. I've filled maybe four notebooks with writing and notes that interconnect characters not just because it's fun, but because it creates a voice for them that you can get behind (Or to get behind a certain narration style). If you can draw or like to at least, it's a lot more fun to do because it helps with thinking of them visually also.

    It's a fun exercise that helps me with a lot of problems of writing- understanding the character, seeing if characters can relate or connect, connecting plot lines and stories, etc. etc. Also it creates a neat collection to have c:
     
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  6. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Dark, is it not? Contributor

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    I don't know, per se. When I work on my WIP I get very injected into the 'voice'(s) of my
    MCs. Almost like you are them exactly in each moment, taking fire and clashing in the
    heat of the battle. Or in one instance trying to not to turn into a ball of tormented
    pain, watching three women get flayed because the enemy knows that it will bring up
    some really bad parts of the past.
    Kinda like an intense high octane roller-coaster ride, filled with lots of emotion
    and despair. So lurk in their shoes, get a feel for what they feel. And it might give it
    the extra oomph it could use. Or you could just use a more aggressive detached
    dour tone, but it might not pack quite the same punch.

    I have been reading a collection of shorts from a guy, and he is so detached that there
    is no feeling in anything he writes. His Horror and Mil-Fic are just kinda numb and
    you really don't care if anything happens to the characters, because the author did not
    put the effort forth to give a damn either. While he may have won or had each of the
    stories published, they are just lifeless words that only prove he can string a good yarn
    that has no feeling. It is a pity too. No matter how well you can construct a sentence,
    the overall story should not be akin to torturing a corpse.
     
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  7. jazzabel

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find that the voice develops much more in editing/revision stage. There are practical ways to encourage a certain voice within a novel, or for a specific character, but also the detachment you mention could have a lot more to do with narrative distance and other writing choices such as vagueness, lack of variation in sentence structure, unnecessery explanations, stilted dialogue etc. You can use what you have written so far for this particular story and analyse it. Find all the sentences that you really like. See what you like about those sentences. Then read it again and highlight those that sound awkward or wrong somehow. See what is it that makes them different from those you liked. This can help stir you toward the kind of voice that works best, although, as the writer develops, they develop their own unique voice which, even when the style differs from story to story, is still recognisable.
     
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  8. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^ What those guys said. I find if I read a couple of books in a given style, my writing tends to flip into a similar voice automatically, which is either really useful or really annoying, depending on what I'm trying to do at the time.

    In other news: hey @jazzabel! When did you get back?
     
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  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Active Member

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    I love the offbeat voice too. It kind of lets the story move under its own inertia while the POV eats around the edges without worrying about diving too deep into the immediate emotions. Since you're into flash fiction I would suggest trying a few shorts where you follow the emotion instead of the narrative. Maybe base it around a mindset instead of a tradition series of events? Maybe pick a vibe like regret, rage, insouciance, or whatever and just explore the emotion without focusing too much on the story holding it together. It'll feel weird--like writing left handed--but it might kickstart a different flavor of writing for you.
     
  10. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale "Cue the artillery" Contributor

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    That's a very good idea, flash is something that comes (relatively) easy to me, and it's pretty obvious if a piece is working or not.

    Thanks!
     
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  11. Lew

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    As to my voice as the writer, I don't think I would change it, as it is me narrating the story, partly factual, partly descriptive, partly humorous. With only two fictions published, I haven't seen a need to change that.

    As for my characters, in the E&D, my characters have different voices, partly depending on what language they are speaking at the time: the centurion speaks a cockney-like dialogue representing the "vulgar Latin" that is his normal voice, but speaks grammatically and syntactically correct Greek, his birth tongue (last name Aristides, father a tutor). When he speaks Aramaic, he uses a King James "thou sayest" style, my way of distinguishing that Arabic language from others for all speakers, but he speaks it very brokenly as he doesn't speak it very well, just what he picked up stationed in Syria and the Middle East. But he surprises his traveling companion, a senior officer, when on one occasion, he speaks perfectly correct high Latin... he is actually well-educated and well-read, but finds it to his advantage to not reveal that side of himself, either to the junior soldiers below him or the officers above him.They see in his day-to-day speech what they expect to see, a gruff common soldier with no pretensions.
     
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  12. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want to write a different kind of voice then just, well, write it. Write in first person as someone with that kind of voice and see how it goes. It's not easy to change voice but you can do it if you really want to and being in first person will give you something more objective to work with in terms of saying 'does this fit or not?'
     
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  13. MilesTro

    MilesTro Contributing Member

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    Pretend you are a voice actor, role playing as your characters or narrators. Listening to audio books can also help you.
     
  14. Atrophied_Silence

    Atrophied_Silence Member

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    Something that has helped me in the past when it comes to experimenting with different voices or characters is definitely research. Try writing something based on a protagonist in a different country. I'm currently working on a Scottish horror story at the moment, so it has definitely helped to write with that accent. Not obnoxiously of course, but enough to give the piece credibility. Maybe try something like that?
     
  15. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Active Member

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    I think he means narrative voice as it applies to intimacy of POV depth... not accents and things.
     
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  16. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Contributing Member Contributor

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    To be honest, no-one not from Scotland knows how they really talk anyway so you can get away with whatever you want. And don't worry about the Scots getting offended; they're savages up there. I heard tell they had a book once, but they burned it because it was English.






    :p
     
  17. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not sure if this helps, but I write close-third with multiple POV characters, so I let their voice leak into the authorial voice, and I haven't totally nailed down how to do this (I still have trouble writing non-sarcastic charcters), but I generally try to write with some basic rules for each voice to make them distinctive. So these are a few of the rules:

    1) Main character "Nina's" voice: No cursing in either the dialogue or the authorial voice, occasional use of the term "heck" in both dialogue and the authorial voice. Character notices people's behavioral ticks in some detail. Occasional use of sci-fi references in analogies - including in the authorial voice.
    2) Side character "Vinya's" voice: Occasional authorial-voice cursing, authorial voice uses west-coast American slag, Character focusses on the way rooms are decorated, any sound equipment providing background noise, and how people dress.
    3) Side character "Madison" - Heavier authorial voice cursing including authorial voice "f**k", more sarcastic and clipped authorial voice that lapses into biting and often insulting commentary on the people around her.
    4) Side character "Emma": Southern-US dialect leaks heavily into the authorial voice. Both the character and the authorial voice use adjectival "damn" repetitively and heavily despite not cursing too heavily - which none of the other characters are allowed to do. Authorial voice consistently and habitually uses the terms "that girl" or "girls" to refer to other female characters. Authorial voice focusses less on proper grammar and often uses sentence fragments.
    5) Side character "Sinead": Authorial voice has a college-level vocabulary and uses long words that would never be used in another point of view ("heteronormativity," "prestidigitation," etc.). Grammar is correct but authorial voice is prone to long, meandering run-on sentences that are either unpunctuated or broken only by commas. Paragraphs are longer when character is excited, and authorial voice often lapses into absurd logic-chain arguments with itself as the character obsesses about her own mental state or what other people think of her. Character and authorial voice NEVER use the term "girl" to refer to an adult woman.

    I don't know if that helps in terms of changing voice from project to project, but it's how I try to differentiate.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017 at 10:31 PM
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  18. jazzabel

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey @NigeTheHat I got back a few weeks ago :)
     

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