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Character Voice Analysis

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  • #135511
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    Alright y’all, here is a scene that I wrote from my three main character’s POV’s to improve their character voices. I would appreciate tips on how to improve their character voices, and how to make them more unique,  as well as overall thoughts and problems you had with the writing.

     

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    Hugon, Creek:

    Hugon’s boots thudded to the ground as he slid from his horse. The trickle of water had drawn him in this direction, and he now lay his weary eyes on the small creek.

    The creek flowed south, like everything else in his life did.

    The water shimmered with the few rays of light that broke through the canopy of trees high above. His face darkened. But that sun would soon leave to let the darkness back, as all other things of value did in this God-forsaken world.

    Hugon sank to his knees, and dipped his tired hands into the gleaming water. The cool touch of it on his palms sent a refreshing shot of energy through his limbs. He rolled the sleeves of his tunic up to his elbow, and started splashing water into his face.

    The sound of crackling leaves signaled the others approaching the creek from behind him. Joelle came up to his right and observed the creek, and him. Her normally cool calculating eyes now forlorn. He ignored her.

    He felt Rolant bend beside him and begin to wash his face. A pang of deep regret shot into him. No amount of washing would take away the events of the past few days.

    But then a new feeling filled him and his eyes began to burn. He turned his head towards Joelle. She was running her hands absently through the water, her gaze seeming to stare into the depths of the current. Probably contemplating how to rid herself of her current company. He hoped she would, he’d seen enough of her face for two lifetimes.

    He began to open his mouth to growl something at her, but the weight of Rolant’s firm hand on his shoulder stopped him. He forced his gaze to meet Rolant’s haggard eyes.

    Rolant shook his head, and gave a sad smile. “I know Hugon, I know. But we need her.” He ran a hand through his graying hair. “And it’s not like we can put the blame entirely on her anyway.”

    Hugon grimaced. He didn’t want to think about it. He turned his gaze upward to the trees, his blond hair falling away from his ears and brushing his shoulders. The large leaves of the mighty oaks waved in the breeze like the swaying of a hundred dancers. Like Aria had used to do to the sound of a sweet melody.

    He shoved his face into the creek and let the water mix with the tears trickling down his cheeks.

    Joelle, Creek:

    Joelle trailed behind the others, Tumas’s large frame riding in front of her blocking the rest of the group from her view. Large trees rocked to and fro all around them in the breeze like the wagons of a merchant train.

    Hugon had called from up ahead that there was a creek nearby and that if they didn’t want to get murdered by other travelers for looking like delinquent scum then they had better follow him. Then he had laughed and said “Oh wait, we are delinquent scum”.

    Joelle’s gut twisted at the memory, and at the dark, cynical laugh that had floated back to her. She had not meant to cause harm to him or his friends. But it wasn’t her fault or her problem. She had only been doing her job, Hugon and his partners had put themselves in this situation. Then why was her gut knotting into a thousand tight threads.

    Tumas had stopped, and was now alighting from his horse. She pushed down the unwanted feelings brutally and tried to reassume the cool, elegant look that she so often carried.

    She slid down from her horse and patted the brown stallion on the neck. As she followed the men to the creek, the physical and mental weariness of the last few days washed over her in waves. Oh how she longed for the days when she had no regrets. An image of her laughing with her mother and father in their large town home flashed into her mind. She stumbled and nearly fell.

    Rolant, who was the only one still attending to his horse, glanced at her. She saw none of the malice she expected, only a weary sorrow. He did not speak to her, only observed her with his gray eyes.

    Avoiding his gaze, she pushed the black strands of hair out of her face and steadied herself. The men were now washing themselves at the creek, their murmuring voices mixing with the trickle of the creek.

    Hugon was bent to his knees near the center of the accessible section of the creek. The others,  including Piers she noted, were giving him a wide berth. She would be following their example.

    She approached the creek at the furthest empty space between Hugon and the next man. She glanced towards him. He was running his hands through the water, his blond hair blocking most of his face from her view. But not enough to hide the pain in his eyes.

    She pulled her gaze away and stared into the creek. The sparkling water flowed over the pebbled creek bed like cloth through a loom.

    She ran her hands aimlessly through the water and tried to stop the war raging in her mind and heart.

    Her well trained senses alerted her of a steady gaze aimed in her direction. She looked out of the corners of her eyes at Hugon. He was staring at her with the gleam of hatred in his eyes. His mouth began to lift and she tensed for whatever he was about to burn her with this time.

    Hugon shut his mouth and turned to his left to where Rolant had laid a hand on his arm. Rolant began to talk to him, but she could not hear what was spoken. Neither did she want to.

    She began to rub the cool water across her arms, still watching Hugon and Rolant out of the corner of her eyes. Hugon was now gazing into the treetops with a look of remorse in his eyes. He abruptly shoved his face into the water and began to run his hand through his hair.

    But not before she saw the gleam of a tear sliding down his cheek. The knot tightened.

     

    Tristan, Creek:

    Tristan observed his warden from atop his mare. The man was studying the ground meticulously and running his rough fingers across the small indents in the soil.

    “They rode southwest.” the warden said, “That way.” he gestured with his hand towards the left. Tristan nodded. The group began to ride in the indicated direction, each looking closely into the trees surrounding them. They, and he as well, had learned their lesson about the stealth of their quarry.

    They came upon a small clearing where a section of a creek was visible. The ground around the area was well trodden, and horse dung spotted the ground a dozen paces away.

    “Must have stopped here for a drink,” Tristan said, “we may as well follow their example.”

    “What if they poisoned the creek?” one of his men, Janor, asked.

    “You can’t poison a creek fool,” the warden said, “it flows downwards taking it’s contents with it.” Janor grumbled something about devil women and their esoteric ways.

    Tristan dismounted and bent to wash his face. The creek was clear with a glimmering onyx sheen produced by the sun’s golden rays illuminating the rich brown creek bed. His father had once worn a large onyx stone. He had allowed him to play with it as a child. He smiled at the memory. The smile quickly turned foreboding as his mind was pulled back to the present, and the things he now knew that he wished he didn’t. How he longed for the times when who and what he thought was honorable, was truly honorable.

    They remounted their steeds, and once again began to follow the trail. They had been hunting the thieves for days, like hounds on the trail of a stag.

    He couldn’t believe this was happening. All he wanted to do was erase the past few days of his life and forget all of their damning revelations.

    But he would get the book back. He would.

     

    ———————————————————————————————————————–

    Thanks for reading, looking forward towards y’all’s advice!

     

    • This topic was modified 3 months, 3 weeks ago by Noah Cochran.
    #135523
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @noah-cochran

    First of all, this is a great scene! I was really pulled into it and found myself wondering what in the world Joelle could have done. I felt sorry for Hugon, he sounds like he’s been through some stuff.

    Hugon’s piece has the best voice, definitely. I loved these bits in particular:

    The creek flowed south, like everything else in his life did.

    But that sun would soon leave to let the darkness back, as all other things of value did in this God-forsaken world.

    He felt Rolant bend beside him and begin to wash his face. A pang of deep regret shot into him. No amount of washing would take away the events of the past few days.

    Probably contemplating how to rid herself of her current company. He hoped she would, he’d seen enough of her face for two lifetimes.

    He’s voicey, opinionated, and cynical. I like how you can see he has sympathy for Rolant, instead of just pitying himself.

    Overall, I like him, and I feel sorry for him.

    Joelle and Tristan aren’t as distinctive, but they’re not bad.

    For Joelle, it reads as if you were trying to make her frosty and sympathetic at the same time. As such, it doesn’t go far enough in either.

    You could add more opinions to how she describes things as you did with Hugon. Especially if she’s describing her companions. They clearly have some sort of history together. Does she resent them, or does she feel like she’s the problem? In the first case, go all out and show her being annoyed at them for existing. In the second, you can let her scold herself and try to figure out if they’re mad at her.

    (Note, long tangent coming in)

    Since you have multiple narrators, you have the great advantage of perspective. Narrations are unreliable 90% of the time. Characters should have strong opinions that make them interpret things in incorrect ways, or that makes them project their own trauma onto everyone else. That’s what people do.

    But, if you have two or more biased narrators, you can have them contradict each other. This will force your reader to think about what actually happened, and it makes both narrators more likable since you can see things from their eyes.

    I used this trick recently. I had two characters that had a bad history together, and one of them was the narrator. She was so spiteful and downright unreasonable about the other character that my readers automatically disliked him. (Which wasn’t a bad thing, he did deserve it) That happens because readers are trained to take the narrator’s opinions as truth.)

    Then I brought in a second narrator, who was less biased and showed that character in a far more favorable light, while also displaying that Narrator 1 had serious forgiveness issues.

    TL;DR, If you have multiple narrators, go all out on making them biased to the point of being unreliable. It’ll make their voices stronger and make them more interesting to read.

    Okay, to get back to the point. You can do that, and decide how she feels about life in general and her companions in particular.

    Most of the time, an opinionated character is a voicey character. And that also means opinions about small, trivial things.

    So you could maybe have Tristan think more forcefully about the group he’s pursuing. It seems like he’s angry at them, so show that!

    You missed an opportunity here:

    Janor grumbled something about devil women and their esoteric ways.

    You can have Tristan mentally comment on this, either how Janor saw danger behind every bush, (This would make Tristan seem more lighthearted) or it can make him nervous, or he can admit that Janor has a point and it wouldn’t be beyond her to try that. Does he agree or not? Is he sympathetic toward the group or not?

    I like how you worked childhood memories into the pieces for all of them! It gives them a bit more background.

    Anyway, great job on Hugon, and the others are getting there! Hope this helped.

     

    Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?

    #135524
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    Great response! You know how to give tips. 🙂

    This paragraph encapsulates what I was trying (emphasis on trying xD) to show through Joelle:

    “Joelle’s gut twisted at the memory, and at the dark, cynical laugh that had floated back to her. She had not meant to cause harm to him or his friends. But it wasn’t her fault or her problem. She had only been doing her job, Hugon and his partners had put themselves in this situation. Then why was her gut knotting into a thousand tight threads”

    I was attempting to show her being torn between her feeling guilty for what she had done to them (the “what” I just decided to leave unknown”) and convincing herself that it wasn’t her fault and she was not responsible for the consequences of the event in question.  Do you have any specific tips on how to better incorporate this attitude into her voice?

    Tristan needs serious work. xD I jotted him down with much less thought than the other two.

    #135547
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @noah-cochran

    Awesome, I’m glad I could help!

    Hmm, here’s how I would write that paragraph:

    ________

    Joelle’s gut twisted at the memory and the dark, cynical laugh that had floated back to her. He blamed her for it, of course, he did. She loosened her horse’s girth with more vim than needed, shoving her heels into the hard dirt, trying to get a grip.

    They could all do whatever they pleased, it was none of her concern. She had done everything she ought, and any mistakes were entirely their fault. Especially that arrogant thundercloud of a Hugon. His cynicism seemed to attract misfortune.

    But what if she had– She cut herself off and shook her dark hair out of her face. It clung to the sweat on her forehead. No. This wasn’t her problem. They had gotten themselves into it, they could get themselves out of it.

    Her scowl softened when she saw Hugon kneeling by the stream. His shoulders sagged. His blond hair obscured his expression, but he looked defeated.

    He looked up suddenly, and their eyes locked. He scowled, his hatred burning holes in her. She stiffened and threw back her head, fixing him with an equally cool glare.

    ________

    (I changed it slightly, just so I could get my point across without rewriting the entire thing.)

    (You don’t have to use this, but it’s just easier for me to rewrite it instead of trying to explain how I would rewrite it 😉

    Now, I didn’t actually state that she feels guilty about it. I’m kind of using the ‘doth protest too much’ principle here. (I just made that term up, that isn’t a thing that I know of, but you get what I mean XD)

    I mean, for someone who claims indifference, she’s thinking about it an awful lot, and she’s been justifying herself for almost two paragraphs. If she actually didn’t care, she’d just dismiss it in a sentence or so.

    If you want to make her guilt more pronounced, you can show her thoughts drifting back to the incident now and then. Or you can even have an entire scene where she crumbles a little and blames herself for it.

    Oh, something else I noticed while rereading Joelle’s piece:

    She ran her hands aimlessly through the water and tried to stop the war raging in her mind and heart.

    You have to be wary of that last bit: “Tried to stop the war raging in her mind and heart”

    When you say something like this, it’s either an introduction or a conclusion for introspection. If you say something like that in the middle of an action, it feels vague and leaves the reader hanging.

    The reader expects you to expand on it, and when you don’t, it loses its impact. I know what conflict you meant, but you already showed it earlier, so you don’t need to tell the reader again.

    In short, it’s like telling your reader ‘Oh, this character is having conflict but we don’t have time to unpack all that now– moving on’. You can use this occasionally if the narrator is hiding something from the audience, but it creates distance between the reader and the character.

    All that to say, you can cut that sentence and use the resonance of the earlier introspection 🙂

    Hope this helped!

     

    Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?

    #135553
    Arindown (Gracie)
    @arindown

    @noah-cochran Arghh, Prof. this is like perfect. Like my favorite style. Honestly. I love how much pain there is, how much we are inside the character’s heads, and how much they’re “rubbing” on each-other. And the setting… If you even need someone to read your manuscript, I volunteer.😄

    Anyywayyy…as for the voices. I agree with Rose that Rolant’s was the best, but I also liked Jolene’s. I can’t think of any suggestions at the moment though, I’ll have to read it again.

    Good job.

    Not all those who wander are lost.

    #135558
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    @rose-colored-fancy

    That was excellent, and surprisingly close to how I was trying to portray Joelle for someone who just read a few paragraphs about her. I copied that and saved in a google doc to analyze later. 🙂

    You might have told me already, but how long have you been writing Rose?

     


    @arindown

    It delights me that you enjoyed it Gracie 🙂

    I also immensely enjoy the “in the character’s head” style of writing. My sister loves this style, and is continually edifying me to get in their heads more. 🙂 I’ve been working on improving my skill at closing physic distance, though I think there is a place for a more distant, observing style in books.

    I’ll put you on my possible beta readers Gracie. 🙂

    I’m glad you enjoyed Rolant’s POV. Next time I’ll actually write one from his POV. 😉

     

     

     

     

     

    #135649
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @noah-cochran

    That was excellent, and surprisingly close to how I was trying to portray Joelle for someone who just read a few paragraphs about her. I copied that and saved in a google doc to analyze later.

    Glad I could help! She was interesting to write!

    You might have told me already, but how long have you been writing Rose?

    Just over a year, and at least six months of that was just me learning how to punctuate dialogue, how to spell ‘necessary’, ‘villain’, and ‘rhythm’, and how to get my characters from one place to the other without making it seem like they teleported. XD

    So, don’t take any of my advice without squinting at it critically and remembering it comes from a person who has been sorely tempted to quote memes in actual, serious writing. (I wish I was kidding.)

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by Rose.

    Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?

    #135654
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    Teleportation problems huh, that’s quite humorous. xD I haven’t given much thought to travel, perhaps I should.

    Well Rose, obviously, you’ve made excellent progress. Keep me updated on your WIP. 🙂

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