Are you ever inspired by the voices of your characters?
A few years ago, as I was writing the short stories in In-Futura, I began to experiment with the idea of going for really unique voices with my characters. That means using dialogue, dialects, and character-specific words and phrases to give each voice a special kind of richness. But a few Editors made me second guess this form of writing. One said that the children in one of my dystopias sounded like "prepubescent children who write like the Brontė sisters" — that was the point! Another said she wasn't a fan of phonetic accents. So I became a bit "dis-inspired".
But in revising 151, I've really fallen in love with pushing for unique voices again. Voices can tell you so much about a character: where they're from, how educated they may (or may not) be, whether they have a special relationship with someone or not, and they can even clue you in to that character's belief system. Voices can enhance the richness of your major characters, like making your villain extra vile by giving them a big, magnanimous voice when they explain their scheme, or they can add richness to fleeting characters who don't get the benefit of elaborate description. I've even developed a Character Voice Key that I use to list each character's way of speaking and their favourite words and phrases.
My favourite aspect of unique voices, however, is how they can play a role in the relationships and interactions between characters. They can even inspire new directions for scenes and conversations. Do the voices cause confusion? Do they make people laugh? Do they annoy?
Here's a quick excerpt from a scene in which Casseopea, a "refined" Apprentice from the Colonies, has an argument with Neas, who has grown up as a thief in the Underground. Check out how voice can add a little bit of confusion... and fun:
“Alright. Forget it. I see how you are.”
“Hold your beef! I rescued you from those jukes, didn’t I? Juiced’em real good. You’re here now, alive. Could’ve been bogey meat. Or worse, for all I care. What more d’you want from me?”
“Nothing. Happy? I want nothing.”
“Whatever. I know it’s not nothin’. Otherwise you would’ve goosed-it a long time ago. I may not be a prentice... but I ain’t no gooser.”
“I never said you were a... a goose-it.”
“Goos-er, dang it.”
How do the voices of your characters inspire you and your work?
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