Because science into life doesn't go

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

In Their Heads

One of the biggest problems I have with my writing (I said "one"; there's plenty of other faults!) is developing a character's voice.

By nature I often take a detached view of events, and this translates through to my prose. I usually construct my sentences slowly, focusing on clarity more than voice. This method seems to leave the unique cadences and tics of any particular character off the page.

One gregarious violation -- exactly like those two words! -- is my use of longer, more precise lexicon when it's not always faithful to the character. There are a number of ways of dealing with this.

First off, never use language -- especially filler language -- that the character wouldn't be aware of themselves. If you used the phrase "Pertaining to the matter," then as a reader you might expect the character to have a certain level of education or be in a professional firm or have had a particularly well-heeled upbringing.

Second, keep the character's focus on things they would be interested in. If a character has no expertise in star fields, then you can't begin describing the constellations in great detail even if it is just description. That would jar.

Of course, there are many more tricks: sentence length; diction; deciding on your character's overriding feeling towards the world -- cynical, joyous, depressed, envious (be aware of alienating readers with unsympathetic characters though!). Automatic writing may help to overcome your own sub-conscious imprinting of your own outlook on the writing too.

Or, the other way to go is choose POV characters who better reflect your own worldview and personality. Anyone for an emotionally detached analytical hero?!

As an example of brilliant control of character voice, everyone should read Daniel Keyes classic, "Flowers for Algernon."

298 words. Meh.


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