Monday, December 3, 2012

Short Stories, Flash Fiction and Character Voice

Welcome to December 2012!
Amazing isn't it. Another year has come to it's final wrap up. A lot is going on this month. Today and next Monday I will continue my Short Story and Flash Fiction series before I enter the Christmas break schedule. On Wednesday I will submit my December Insecure Writer's Support Group post. For Romantic Friday Writer's, we are telling a true story or a fictional story about the Holidays and sharing a family recipe. See side bar for details.

My last post on Short Stories and Flash Fiction, way back in October was on 'Voice.' Trisha left a comment that character's had their own voice too. Which of course started me thinking about characters, their voice and the writer's voice and how that played off each other. So today I'm sharing my thoughts and experience on character voice.

If you missed the last post, here is the link.

How do you distinguish between your voice and your characters voice? How do you create different voices for your characters in one manuscript. The answer is relatively simple. Dialogue. Mannerism.

I write fantasy as you may have surmised based on the title of my blog. Often, my characters are in a  medieval time period and definitely not modern American, although my heroine in The Treasures of Carmelidrium is a modern American, she finds herself in medieval France. Except it's not really France, just an offshoot. Many of the characters differ from each other. Missie, is modern and American. Her language is what you would find in most cities in America. Prince Healden is a nobleman and royalty, he often refers to Missie as 'My Lady.' However, some of the lower born refer to her as, 'Mi Lady.' Other nuances are used to give each character unique traits. Couple this with specific mannerisms, a twitch over one eye, brushing the fingers through their hair, biting their lower lip, etc., and you create a unique character who readers will adore or hate or simply enjoy their flavor added to the story. Along with spoken dialogue, you have character thoughts which should be just as telling of each character as their dialogue. In their thoughts you may explore their fears and insecurities or their desires and intentions.

As an example in one scene from Treasures, Healden and Missie are talking in the garden about a dinner party the night before. Missie has been questioning Healden about a particular Lady who is a great beauty. She is jealous though she wouldn't admit it even to herself and Healden is baffled by her reaction since he is used to every woman of marriageable age thrusting herself at him. In this scene I use a cliche in dialogue which can be done sparingly.

Missie:  "Is it getting too hot in the kitchen?'

Healden:  "I have no idea if the kitchens are over heated, My Lady."

At which point the tension is broken between them when Missie starts laughing.

There you have it. I think I used a total of three cliches in Treasures, all in dialogue. I mention this because relying on cliches is a weakness and almost always your stories can be better told when you take the time to create a new sentence.

I hope this helps, let me know your thoughts.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nancy .. seems like you do mix up your stories .. interesting .. glad the tension broke and they started laughing ... me too - as I obviously need to read Treasures to get to grip with things ...

December is always a busy month .. good luck with starting to get sorted .. Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Individual character voices didn't come easy. I do resort to mannerisms to distinguish between characters.

Li said...

I've always found dialogue tricky; if you actually sat down and wrote, word for word, actual conversations you had today, you'd probably find it full of umms, awkward constructs, etc. And too much slang or local dialect (even if authentic)can render dialogue virtually unreadable. So the author has to try and keep the flavor while maintaining flow - not an easy thing to do!

Denise Covey said...

Hi dear Nancy. I'm back from my blog hiatus and am thrilled to report I got the first draft of my romantic paradise 'fantasy' finished and now to the editing (love that part). I'm not going to let it drift this time as I have an editor keen to read it.

I enjoy these posts of yours. It's so important to get the feel of the era/country/characters right. What's wrong with a few cliches here and there? Some annoy me, but some I like. We are too hard on ourselves. :D

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Hilary
Hope the Holidays are good to you.

Hi Alex
Mannerism is crucial.

Hi Li
You are right. It's tricky and it's a challenge.

Hi Denise
That sounds like things are going well.

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Southpaw said...

Those are great tips for not distinguishing your characters using their voice. Thanks.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Holly
You're welcome, glad I could help.