Tag Archives: tone

Out of Sync

Korielle sighed as she leaned back, running a hand through her hair and crossing one long, lean leg over the other in a show of seduction. “I guess I’ll just have to–

Crumple, erase, backspace until it’s gone. Sigh, stare at the screen or paper, purse of the lips. Wait. Think. Try again.

She looked out of the window with a forlorn expression, despite letting the jacket fall off her shoulders and showing long expanses of bare arms. “I’ll find a way,” she said. “I alwa–

“Dammit,” sigh, stand up, walk around, wait. Stare. Think. Wonder.

Being out of sync with your character or story is not only one of the most frustrating things you can encounter, but it’s hard to find where you are on the line that separates, “I should step back and wait,” and, “I need to hunker down and figure this out.” You know something is wrong, but how do you re-align yourself with your hero again to finally see what they really want to do?

Or… Is it more than that? Are they the ones acting out of character? Is there no other way for them to feel for this scene, where they want to jump the bones of another despite your wanting the scenario to go a different direction?

I’ve experienced both, really; where a character runs into a situation head on that I never expected, and it turns into something bigger than I could have imagined, and on the same token, I’ve created bad circumstance simply because I wasn’t so with it on that day. I’ve scrutinized a piece of writing over and over until I’ve felt it was right.

I’m reminded of a small piece of advice I learned, of little mistakes. “Just run with it.” It’s not so easy some times, though, when you have to be conscious of what’s better for the story or not. Smaller things can be passed off, but the bigger things take a lot of consideration, and some days, it’s harder to tell what lines up and what would make a better story.

As I’ve said I don’t know how many times, it’s difficult to take a step back. Forcing things often can make them worse, but letting things alone and just waiting for them to settle can take time and patience that even saints don’t have. Well, maybe not so much patience, but it does take a lot to be able to accept that you need to set your hands down, maybe watch a movie or play a game, do some other work, and just let your head reset for what you’ve been working on.

Seeing that you aren’t writing a character to par can be the first sign of that, too. Doubting yourself makes it worse, and then you keep digging and trying to make something work and it’s just frayed ends and bad wires. Don’t overwork it. Doing too much can make things worse, too.

Sometimes, after being able to find the voice of the character well enough, glancing back at what you were hedging on before might provide you with new ideas and an expansion to the one you had come up with when things weren’t all lined up.

One thing I’ve found that helped me recently was doing practice-writes, putting two characters together and just feeling out the scene without really intending to get anywhere. Such as Friday’s post said, don’t edit anything, no revisions, just write. If you need the practice, if you feel like you’re not getting the voice right, having a quick, easy scenario can sometimes be best for a writing-equivalent rough sketch.

The best part about being out of sync with your slew of characters is that it’s temporary. It just takes time away and some searching, but usually it doesn’t last too long and you’re back in the game. I’ve found that the best is not to force something that isn’t able to go te way you want it to.

– The Novice Wordsmith

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“Nothing is Ever Good Enough”

Continuing on the sort of theme I’ve been on the past couple of days, I looked inward for another post. It’s been on my mind for a bit, but I was never sure how to breach the subject in a post.

One thing I see a lot in writing advice from time to time is that you will always find a flaw with your writing. There will never be a point in time where you’re simply finished with being critical of your work and instead entranced by all of what you turn out. Days will come and go where you don’t want to touch some of your writing, because you’re afraid of how bad it’ll turn out instead.

You will hate your work, and you will love it. Some of our best work in the eyes of our audience may be something we personally abhor.

You will turn out chapters and stories you are mystified and have the strongest sense of satisfaction about. You will be in love with the development and the strength of a character or a scene that you described.

The phrase “You are your own worst critic” is true, mostly because you can see the flaws, you can see where you want things to be stronger and better. Where the phrasing should have been different, or a character should have kissed someone instead of slapping them. Where you could have described the scenery better, or changed one word to better fit the situation.

In personal news, I see others play characters of mine, and sometimes, depending on who it is, I feel a pang of, “they’re better at this than I am. Why am I still writing this character? Why don’t I just give it to them?”

Worry, self-conscious thoughts, anxiety. It all ties in. It makes it worse, but I try to remember that I’m the one who created these characters. I’m the one who knows them best. I hold their voices, not someone else. Friends may catch on and see how they are very well, but they aren’t the proprietors, the voice wouldn’t sound the same under someone else’s writing.

The story itself would not be the same from someone else’s hand, either. Even the stories passed down from deceased authors to a new one with be different, sound different, because the same hand isn’t writing it. Everyone is different, style, tone, word choice, it’s all different. You wrote this character, you made the hero or the villain or the group of people or the plot itself with all of its twists and turns, for you, for how you write, and no one else.

So no matter how much you think it sucks, no matter how bad you might think it looks or how bulky or chunky or just unreadable it might be to you, keep going. Don’t stop, don’t hand it off, this is yours. These, every little element and tool and piece of the world, is yours, it’s everything you’ve put together, how many hours and how much effort you’ve gone through to make sure it’s how you envisioned it.

Don’t let anyone, or anything stop you. Least of all yourself.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Post: The Voice

(No, it has nothing to do with the reality show.)

Every character has a voice. I express this to Wordsmith a lot; I say that ‘strong characters have a strong voice.’ It’s a way — the _main_ way — a character interacts with the reader. When you can hear the character talking, they become less words on a page, thrown on like limp spaghetti, and more like a movie script being enacted.

It’s not just about an accent. It’s not just about aphorisms, or turns of phrase. It’s the way that you _hear_ them talking. They’re still just words, but you can hear the emotion, the pauses, the tenseness and sultryness, You won’t need to add artificial exclamation points and ellipsis. It’s like your character is good enough to improvise their own dialogue because you ‘know’ what they’re going to say in response to anything.

When I say that “I haven’t found the voice for a character yet”, it means they’re going to be a little slower to write. They’re actors still, coming into the scene to say their lines and then going back off. I don’t wonder if they’re tired, hungry, or peppy. I have to consider their situation, their surroundings, and make them observe more. They are the ones who lack the ‘pop’ of a living, breathing, character.

How do you give a character a voice?

You can’t.

They have to earn it. And learn it.

They have to be dragged from scene to scene, until they find that moment of awesome that you make for them, where, like any hero or heroine, they rise to that moment and it defines them. It doesn’t have to be action. It could be inaction, letting something go that will affect them later. It could be a call of bravery or a breakdown that lets you see them in full color for the first time. Until then, they’re just words defining a picture, and poorly at that sometimes.

Hijacking the ideas from titular show for a second as an example; picture if you will, each character coming onto a stage for the first time, where you can’t see them, only hear them. They have a purposefulness you don’t understand yet. They have motivations you haven’t come up with for them yet. All they have is their unique voice, and you are the one that has to pick them for potential development. When you turn and see them, and add them to your novel, you decide whether they’re good looking as they are, or if they need a makeover. But it’s their voice that has to make you turn about and let them work with you. You have to hear something in it. You have to believe that they can be more with your work.

But not all characters find that next level right away. Some of them get supplanted by breakout characters with bigger, better, brighter, badder voices. “Main characters” have voices you can relate to strongly, and that is why they get the best lines and most memorable monologues.

But only you can find the voice for each of your characters.

You are the narrator, director, and casting head for your novel. Each character that walks through the pages, onto the stage and scene, has some level of voice, or they’re just an extra. But main characters have to have that time to develop properly, and sometimes no amount of forcing ideas on them work. It doesn’t mean you have to give up on them; it just means you haven’t found their sound yet.

When you find yourself quoting or reminiscing on things a character has done with a smile, they’ve got their voice. But until that happens, you have to keep writing their dialogue until they step up and say, ‘Hey, I should say it THIS way.’

And then you’ll know.