Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Scene 3: Voices

I've heard, rather I've read, of other authors hearing voices in their heads.  Characters insisting their story be told.  Conversations between characters.  Evil plots discussed.  Romantic sentiments shared.  Jokes and taunts planted in the mind.  And finally, I am among their ranks.

It's official.  I must truly be an author now.  I have voices in my head... and they won't shut up.

I have voices in my head... and I have been encouraging to speak up, speak louder.

Maybe that sounds crazy, like schizophrenia/multiple personality crazy, but I am so excited about it.  Hearing my characters speak to me is helping elevate my manuscript to a whole new level.  As such, I wanted to share a few tips for developing your own characters' voices.  Things I have learned along the way.

1) Character worksheets!!!  A must have in your character-building tool box.  Some of my favorites are:

You will find that they are each a little different, asking for different information or different angles on the same information (ie how they interact with others vs. have they ever betrayed anyone).  I've found for me, doing multiple worksheets for each character allows their voices to ring more clearly in my mind.  And it's worth the time and work.  It will show in your writing.

2) Personality.  They must have their own and be distinct.  This should naturally develop through the worksheets, but can also be enhanced with further thought and consideration.  

NY Times best-selling author Shannon Hale, recommends assigning each character an animal.  You then would use the characteristics of said animals to flesh out your characters.  She has a list of her characters and their animal counterparts on her website, Squeetus.   You can also use astrological signs such as Cancer and Gemini or the Chinese Zodiacs to help fill out your characters' personalities.  These are also great for finding compatible personality traits in relationships.

Furthermore, look to the world around you for people of similar dispositions as your characters... or even look to other literary characters or those in movies.  Hale has also stated that her character Sir John Templeton in her book Austenland--which has been adapted into a movie and will soon hit theaters--was inspired by the character of Mr. Hurst in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  

3) Theme song!  Everyone wants to have their own theme song, right?  Why not give your characters each their own.  Music is a must for me as I write and I have found that certain songs lend to writing in certain voices more effectively.  I have found music one of the most beneficial tools in my writing box.   I live my life by music.  So naturally, in breathing life into my characters, music is essential.   You can also use music to help set the mood of certain scenes and to help create the locations or sets of your story.  *side note: the location of your story can also become a character in its own right*  

To help solidify this example, I want to share with you one of my character's voices and her theme song.


I tried to sleep, but even in my dreams I cannot escape him… or her.  My dreams took me back to the day he passed on from this world.

As he lay there, his armor stained and rusted with his blood, his last words were of her, to her:  “I come for thee, love.  I am come home.”  In that moment, I cursed the world and all the creatures in it.  

I had saved him.  I had been born for this purpose, to heal him, to ensure his life was extended.  I had spent my life, my meager few years on this Earth, dedicated to learning the arts--countless hours of boring, dusty books and looking into my tutors frightfully askew eye.  To this end?  To be swept aside as if I were a mere servant girl?  Nay.  I will not have it so. 

I swore to myself right then and there to take matters into my own hands.  This would never happen again.  I will be seen.  I will be approved.  I will become the prize.  No.  I will not be a mere trophy.  I will be a Queen.  The Queen.  They will bow to me, fall over themselves to serve me.  No longer dismissed,  I will be the dismisser.  The world will fear my vengeance.

And her theme song?  Royals by Lorde

And the list goes on, I'm sure.  There are a multitude of characters development techniques out there, find the one that works for you.  And forget creating characters that are likable.  Not all people are likable and yet they exist.  Doubt me?  Read this article and get back to me.  Focus instead on characters that are real and fleshed out, four-dimensional.  Let people love to hate them.  Let people hate that they love them.  If your characters voices are clear in your head, they will be solid and real in your reader's mind too... well, that is if you can write as well as you can think.  But that's a whole other post entirely.

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