I’m thinking about voice now, about how it frames and directs a character, as well as our sense of who they are.
How a person speaks reflects so much: their background, their education, their “themes” in life, their passions, their viewpoints. When they write, we can “hear them” in their words.
It’s such an integral piece to have down when one’s writing fiction. So that leads me to a writing question for those of you in the habit of creating characters (or having them pop up unexpectedly and barter/bribe/force their way into your text).
1. What comes first for you: a real sense, in the totality, of who the character is, or their voice?
2. Do certain types of characters take their voices more easily than others, for you?
3. And if you’ve written more than one manuscript/book, do you find by and large any commonalities in the voices that come easiest to you?
I mentioned a week or so ago that I’d created a new character. I’d called him an “accidental” character. One moment I was with my characters escaping the Bloomington rain in a little diner I once huddled in years ago, and the next moment he’d walked across the ether and sat down with us, his motives close to the chest. I wasn’t sure if he’d last or not, but now I think he’s a keeper. And one thing I love about him is that he finally did what only my antagonists had been able to do thus far. He came with his whole self formed.
I mean, I love characters who come fully formed. Saves me the time and trouble, I tell you. 😉 But what he also came with was his voice. Literally the sound of it, its timbre and emotive resonance, its pattern. Even his pauses. This makes him so far my strongest voice, but even so, I know it needs development and refinement over the course of my rewrites. That’s okay. I’m just glad I hear him. It makes writing him easier.
For me, the sum of a character has come first each time. Only when I really sense them can I write them–that is, have them speak using their own voices, and not just my words–and even then, voice does not come easily to me yet. My two favorite antagonists came fully formed, but even so, their voices are still being refined. One, I can hear. I know his style; he’s so cognizant of it, I can’t help but be.
But my heroes, I could shoot them with a brick. They run from scrutiny. Their voices are still mine. To me, that’s the big clue they need more development.
So, what about you–does the character come first, or the voice? And do you have some voices come easier to you, like my antagonists and this new fellow (bless his soul)?
And for that matter, how easy is voice for you to master?