Tag Archives: voice

The Tiniest Voice

“What’s the difference between showing only me something, and showing a bunch of people on a different website?” Friend asked, a few days ago, after I’d had an upset about my writing not being viewed or liked on a bigger platform.

“If I show you, you give me feedback,” I told him. “You read it. When I put it somewhere else, it’s likely to be ignored, and largely, it does.”

If you recall this post, about putting your writing out in the wild, I had just started to get back into a couple of writing blogs somewhere. I have always been sort of cocky about my writing when it’s up against others, thinking that it’s more than decent and that people would like it. So, getting little to no traffic made me feel self conscious, and discouraged.

It comes with a well known frustration for me, of wanting to make some change, do something, and being unable to have much of an influence at all because my voice is so small that it doesn’t reach anywhere. Like talking to myself in a large house and expecting someone in the basement to be interested in my murmurings they can barely hear. Letting out something you’re proud of and it gets sidestepped, no one says a thing, no one manages to look that way at all, and then suddenly you’re deciding to stop and move on to something that doesn’t make you feel like a failure.

Friend’s answer to me, though, was that I shouldn’t be writing for anyone but myself, which is echoed in a year-old post I made. That, in the end, I need to like what I write. The only person that matters when I write something is me. If I enjoy it, nothing should stop me– screw everyone else; if they don’t care for it, fine.

Sometimes it just gets harder to hold onto the sentiment. It’s harder to be okay with just that, especially if you’re looking seriously into getting published. For me, I write because I enjoy it, but I also want to know that other people like it as well. It helps me keep going if I have an audience.

So far, my only consistent audience is a handful of people here, and Friend.

I can write for myself, I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now robustly and I’ve enjoyed it from the beginning. When people get involved, though, it’s a slippery slope for me, and one I’m not entirely sure I like walking down, because even if I do some incredible things, it goes unwatched, unseen. It’s an empty course that you’re going on your own. Or you’re shouting out in the middle of a canyon that no one else occupies with you.

Unexpected frustration came from an infographic I saw, which was supposed to be inspirational. Rich and famous people, innovators, authors, who dropped out of high school or college and made a more than comfortable living, and when they made their money. I get that the message was, “You can do anything,” and “nothing should get you down,” but not everyone can reach that level, especially depending on the country you live in. More often than not, it’s going to be a huge struggle, and no one is guaranteed millions, or even any recognition.

Recognition is another huge chunk of my issue. My little existential crisis. No matter what I say in my life, how many people are even going to remember, or care? What mark am I going to make on the world?

For my writing, I don’t know. I’d like to publish. I’d like to see my work flourish, but I’m not sure it’ll even get very far.

The real understanding, I think, comes from seeing that and doing it anyway. You enjoy it, don’t let anything take the joy out of it for you. Don’t let people ruin it. No one else matters in this world. When everything goes to shit, those random strangers who liked your work aren’t going to do anything for you.

But the partner who supported you through it all, the mother or father or guardian or whoever, who was encouraging you when you were crawling through muck and upset, they will.

Even if my novels tank, no matter what kind of mark I make, as long as I enjoy the process and putting things together, writing it all out. It’s harder to block out, when you learn more about publishing and what will garner the numbers you want, tailoring to a group of people instead of how you see things.

It still gets to me that Stieg Larsson was dead by the time his books were published, and with a different set of names than he originally intended in the first place. He was so adamant about keeping the first book as “Men Who Hate Women,” and the publishers didn’t care for it, so it got changed.

But that’s how it goes, isn’t it? When you see or want one thing, and then you have to do another because it’s better for the audience, to get the numbers.

These two things just feel at great odds. If I ever get to the publishing point, I’m not sure what I’ll do. And, hey, it’s not like I have much knowledge of it, it could be a different beast than I’m imagining, but hearing about it during dentist visits and what I see from others.

Maybe I’ll just stick to writing for myself and Friend, and you lot. Things are much easier that way, and there’s less people to worry about pleasing.

-The Novice Wordsmith

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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

“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

Questionnaire and Questioning

I had been planning this post after the prompt about meeting characters, and then it just so happened that someone who follows me (and who I follow), made a post that coincides, and the results were entertaining.

One of the things I absolutely love about character development and finding the voice and personality of a character so strongly, is that if you had a set of questions in front of you to ask them, you could get answers back authentic to who they are. Jon has an excellent example, an onslaught of varied, unique and interesting questions that you may not have thought to ask before, but it helps flesh out the character well, in unexpected ways.

Friend took an approach similar to this one to figure out the dynamic of his characters he was going to write for for Camp in April and July, things about their greatest accomplishments, what they buy at the grocery store, what kind of character they’d play in a certain game.

It gives you a feel for them, and it helps give them a stronger voice, I think. I used to do these questionnaires when I was younger, for new characters, and for old ones, and just sunk into it on a rainy day. It really is one of my favorite things to do, but for being that, I haven’t done it much at all recently.

Regardless, I encourage it, at least give it a shot. Check out Jon’s blog, the link up above, and I think he has another set of questions in his blog somewhere, too, or just do a random search online. You can’t go wrong. Or, if you think of something random; what kind of coffee do they like, would they go to Starbucks? Do they like flowers, how do they feel about old, classic paintings?

On top of that, it manages to give them some more dimension, making them more human (or humanoid, or humanistic… err… depending if they’re aliens or not). I like what it brings to the forefront, more than just the things you would typically know from reading the novel or the stories, the questionnaires bring forward a lot of random little tidbits, showing off all edges.

I’m a fan of reading things like that, too. I have a friend whose blog is run about and “by” her character, and I see different prompts and questions about odd little things pop up every so often. Inappropriate thoughts or things being shouted, a particular phrase.

Maybe I’ll do one of these sooner than later, myself…

-The Novice Wordsmith

Dare: Endangered

Chances are that you have a slew of characters. They’re mostly good, some of them are chaotic, others are just downright hellish. Or maybe they’re all one way or the other. Whoever you have in your stable of mains and secondaries, this dare is for you.

Consider yesterday’s post about voice, then think about who of your characters would be most likely to get themselves into a huge mess, one that may threaten their life because of tangling with the wrong people. Is it a gang? An occult that they tried to get in good with for information? Maybe they made friends with someone or got romantically involved because they thought the person was innocent at first?

Then, think about how they would get out of it. Do they know how to make people disappear? Are their skills based on financial persuasion? Depending on the universe they’re in, are they magically inclined, or do they have the tools to take someone out easily or with some effort?

Finally, does the threat end there, or does it follow them in some way? Psychologically, subconsciously, or physically? Does the person or people threatening them before come back to haunt them? If so, how does it truly end, and who comes out on top? Is the night or day of danger something that stays with them, keeping them from sleep, or was it something they could simply shake off?

I suppose this also ties in with the suspense post I made the other day, and putting your characters in danger, but making sure not to put them in situations you don’t like, or that they can’t bounce back from. Making it look like they can’t, but giving them an ace up their sleeve. Which also ties in to yesterday’s post about voice; thinking about what choices they have or what they would be capable of.

In the end, it all ties together. However intentionally or not.

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.