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Character Voice

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  • #135257
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    Alright y’all, hit me with your best tips to improve the character voice for a character. I’ve found various tips from a plethora of sources, but I’m interested to see what y’all think.

    On a related topic, what are y’all’s thoughts on metaphors and similes? Things such as: which do you prefer or use more, any tips on how to come up good ones faster (in particular metaphors), and how often do you use them in your writing.

    #135262
    imwritehere1920
    @imwritehere1920

    @noah-cochran

    *cracks knuckles and plops down in chair*

    Alrighty!  So what has been helping me out a lot lately with character voice is to write ‘character sketches’.  So far, I’ve done it for two writing projects (a novel and a short story) and it’s been pretty helpful (though, future methods may change/vary depending on the project.)

    So, I tend to write two types of sketches: first is an ‘external portrait’, the second is ‘internal’.  The first is where I take my character and put them in a scene and write about how they react or interact with their surroundings.  I completely leave out what they’re thinking or feeling.  I pretend I’m an observer writing down the actions that I see.  Then when I’m done, I go back and work on an ‘internal’ portrait.  I look at their actions and imagine what their internal processes are like.  I write it more as an inner monologue (like, the character is in their bedroom reflecting on what happened that day.)  Don’t worry, you don’t have to go overboard.  I’ve found a couple hundred words for each sketch have been enough to get an idea of my character’s personality and voice.

    There have been times where I didn’t write a character sketch; instead, a striking/unusual/expressive photo of a person would suddenly spark my imagination for a character’s voice.

    As for metaphors and similes… um, I’m not really good at coming up with them on the spot *haha*.  I tend to take my time with those (often when I’m going through the next several drafts of my project, I work on incorporating better ones.)  If it helps, keep a small notebook (pocket-sized) on hand to jot down anything that comes to mind like random descriptions.  Then later, you could try working it into a metaphor or simile.

    I think that’s about it.  I hope it was helpful!  🙂

    We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. — Ernest Hemingway

    #135269
    Brian Stansell
    @obrian-of-the-surface-world

    Hi Noah,

    Metaphors are my preference.  Similes…well…to put it nicely…just seem like a lot of “valley-girl” talk.

    On a related topic, what are y’all’s thoughts on metaphors and similes? Things such as: which do you prefer or use more, any tips on how to come up good ones faster (in particular metaphors), and how often do you use them in your writing.

    It is tough getting around overused cliches, but you can do it if you just stop and imagine with as many perceptive senses as you can. Use one most people don’t think of right off.  Such as how does the wind in the trees smell?  What noise does the sand on a beach make if you were laying down in the surf?

    Dean Koontz is an absolute master of metaphor, so I would peruse some of his novels.  His chapters tend to begin with one, that allows a reader to connect with the setting in some unique ways.  The man is a genius with evocative word pictures.

    Don’t overuse them though.  Think of these as flavoring a little salt into a scene.  Too much, get’s it spit out.  Too little and the scene can come across bland. Keeping that idea of balancing the taste in mind and you’ll do alright.

    Have a blessed evening!

    Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
    I was born in war.
    Fighting from my first breath.

    #135276
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @noah-cochran

    I actually made a questionnaire a while ago that has some questions that might help you work out your character’s voice.

    If the link doesn’t work, it’s in the ‘Characters’ forum and it’s still on the first page.

    Character voice questionnaire

    Personally, I really like similies.

    I think the key to writing a good one is you need to be specific, and you need to use it for characterization. (And don’t be cliche.)

    If you’re specific enough, it won’t be cliche, and it’ll give you much more interesting imagery. However, if you overdo it, it’s ridiculous, which is fantastic if you want to play it up for comedy. Douglas Adams is a master when it comes to overly specific similies.

    One of my favorite examples: “He leaned tensely against a wall and frowned like a man trying to unbend a corkscrew by telekinesis.” It’s so weirdly specific but you also get exactly what he’s trying to convey.

    As for characterization, you need to think about your character’s interests, and how they’d compare things. They won’t use similies for things they don’t know about.

    This is a pitfall I often see in fantasy. The author will use comparisons that the characters don’t even know about.

    Anyway, use them sparingly. Both metaphors and similies work better during slower-paced scenes since you want to get your point across as quickly and clearly as possible during an action scene.

    If an enemy is storming your pov character, they probably won’t rhapsodize about how the guy’s tunic is the color of freshly fallen snow on the southern mountains. They’ll say it’s white and try not to die.

    Also, something to remember about both metaphors and similes is that their power lies in imagery. If done well, they can reinforce the character’s voice by giving you consistent images that match their background and attitude.

    For example, a gentler character might describe a red sunrise as scarlet dye seeping into the fabric of the heavens, while a more jaded character might describe it as scarlet blood seeping out of long gashes in the clouds, staining the once blue sky. (Those were incredibly bad examples, but I’m making them up on the fly, cut me some slack XD)

    The one gives you a way calmer image and the other gives you a feeling of dread, even though it’s the same thing.

    Anyway, hoped this helped!

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

    #135283
    Bethania Gauterius
    @sparrowhawke

    @noah-cochran

    I like metaphors and similes, but they should be used sparingly. I think there was a Story Embers article a while ago that said they should do double duty–describe the thing you’re trying to describe and show off your character’s voice, like Rose  said. I read a book recently–Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee–that had a good amount of similes and I think they fit the story well.

    Metaphors I tend to use and prefer to see them used in conjunction with a theme. Sort of like symbolism, I guess. Maybe that’s just because my metaphors tend to be long. In fact, now that I think of it, I’m not sure whether my story I’m thinking of had metaphors or if it was just symbolism.

    Most of my metaphors and similes just happen as I’m writing. And I get very excited when they do.

     

    "For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." - Psalm 103:14

    #135298
    Ashley Tegart
    @ashley-tegart

    Hi, @noah-cochran

    I’m currently working on a book written in omniscient narrative, so I don’t have much advice for character voice development….but an author who is great at writing similes and metaphors is P.G. Wodehouse. He wrote the Jeeves and Wooster stories. They are comedies, so the similes and metaphors are intended to be over-the-top and humorous, but Wodehose had such a way of building images with creative word choices.

    #135302
    Brian Stansell
    @obrian-of-the-surface-world

    @rose-colored-fancy

    Ooo! Thank you, Rose!

    Saw your post to Noah…

    I actually made a questionnaire a while ago that has some questions that might help you work out your character’s voice. If the link doesn’t work, it’s in the ‘Characters’ forum and it’s still on the first page. Character voice questionnaire

    This looks quite useful. Mind if I borrow it too?

    My characters needed a little more fleshing out and I was looking for a good systematic way to probe who they are.

    Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
    I was born in war.
    Fighting from my first breath.

    #135327
    Noah Cochran
    @noah-cochran

    @imwritehere1920

    Character sketches sound interesting, I’ll try one of  those sometime. Thanks for sharing that!

     


    @obrian-of-the-surface-world

    I agree with you Brian; I also find metaphors more evocative and enthralling. However, I will agree with Rose that I like similes mainly because I am able to come up with non-cliche ones much much faster than non-cliche metaphors. With those examples you gave I was immediately thinking of similes and not a single metaphor came to mind. I know, I need work. xD

    I absolutely agree with what you (and Rose) said about not overusing these. That’s what we have poets for. 🙂

     


    @rose-colored-fancy

    First off, that character voice questionnaire is fantastic. I had a lot of the info on it already, but you had even more to share and put it all in a coherent and succinct manner. You know your stuff. 🙂

    You’ve now inspired me to write a character who is so romantic that he uses metaphors and similes in his thoughts in the middle of a fight. xD

    “Those were incredibly bad examples, but I’m making them up on the fly, cut me some slack XD”

    Yes, those examples were truly atrocious. I mean, how could someone write something so aweful…….No silly! Those were great and I would have enjoyed reading them in any book. The way you used those two similes to juxtapose two characters’ POV was a joy to read. 🙂

    I had actually been planning on doing something similar with a character voice exercise by taking a couple scenes (maybe a stream in the woods and a village) and describing them from the three different POV’s of my main characters to help develop their character voices.

     


    @sparrowhawke

    When anything just comes to me in writing it’s a joy! Thanks for the tips.


    @ashley-tegart

    Thanks for the reply Ashley!

     

     

     

    #135343
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @obrian-of-the-surface-world

    This looks quite useful. Mind if I borrow it too?

    Glad I could help! It’s gotten a bit lost in the archives 😉


    @noah-cochran

    First off, that character voice questionnaire is fantastic. I had a lot of the info on it already, but you had even more to share and put it all in a coherent and succinct manner. You know your stuff.

    (LOL, I wish) Thank you! I’m glad I could help!

    You’ve now inspired me to write a character who is so romantic that he uses metaphors and similes in his thoughts in the middle of a fight. xD

    Honestly, it would be hilarious, especially if his similes are extremely flowery and specific XD

    Yes, those examples were truly atrocious. I mean, how could someone write something so aweful…….No silly! Those were great and I would have enjoyed reading them in any book. The way you used those two similes to juxtapose two characters’ POV was a joy to read.

    Oh, thank you! I think I actually used the ‘bleeding sky’ simile somewhere.

    I had actually been planning on doing something similar with a character voice exercise by taking a couple scenes (maybe a stream in the woods and a village) and describing them from the three different POV’s of my main characters to help develop their character voices.

    That’s a great idea! I heard of something similar you could do. You write the pieces without labeling which character is which, then you leave it for a week or so and see if you can recognize who is who. If you can’t, pick out the most distinctive quirks and exaggerate them. Repeat until you’re happy with it. I haven’t tried this myself, though XD

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

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