Creating unique voices for each viewpoint character is essential in creating fiction readers want to read over and over. Unique voices stick with you and generate the best reviews.
Here are 9 exercises to help you discover your viewpoint character(s) voice. Select the ones that appeal most. Get into the mind of your character. Free-write the answer to each question in first-person, as if YOU are the character.
First-person, remember. That will help you get a sense of the character’s voice.
EXERCISE #1: Learning Style
1. How do you learn best? Observation? Participation? Trial and error? Rumination and cogitation? Consulting experts? Writing?
Example to get you started – historical character named Rebecca: “Oh, I think I learn best by observation. I’m an artist– well, I sketch a little, or a lot, I suppose– and so I’m always looking at people and places and things and trying to capture them with my pencil.
I like to imagine what people are like from the way they move and the expressions on their faces. I try not to make judgments until I’ve studied the people, however. So I guess I’m an observer. I’m certainly not really a participant. Of course, I have to participate in all sorts of activities, but given my druthers, I’d sit on the sidelines and watch first, until I felt more confident.
Oh, dear, I sound like such a tentative creature. I guess I am that, after all– except for the once, when I eloped with Tommy. Now that time, I didn’t stop to study and observe. I threw myself right into that situation! And I guess I’ve never regretted it, not even when he died and left me alone.
Maybe it’s time again for me to stop studying and just jump in?
EXERCISE #2: Openness
- How open are you to new ideas and information?
- you change your mind frequently, based on what people have told you?
- Are you a traditionalist, deciding on the basis of “what’s always been”?
- If someone is arguing with you, are you more likely to change your mind or dig in your heels?
- What if the arguer is right?
Hey, y’all! How’s that writing coming along?
FEARS (in Children)
Common Things Kids Are Afraid Of ~ Things that may not scare adults but are very real to children
Children and Fear ~ Includes stages of life and fears most common in those years (ranges from infants to teenagers)
FEARS (in Adults)
100 Things That Scare Me ~ Not all are life-or-death situations, but a good place to start thinking of ‘the worst case scenario’
Adult Fear (TVTropes) ~ With links and examples
Nighttime Fears and Adulthood ~ Interesting short article of the effects of unresolved childhood fears in adults (namely the dark)
Lingering Fears From Childhood to Adult ~ Another article
Horrific Setting/Scene ~ Almost looks like a writing prompt/English paper assignment, but a good place to look over and get an idea
STORY FORMULA / TIPS
Rule of Scary (TVTropes) ~ With examples at the bottom
Horror Tropes (TVTropes) ~ Long list of links related to different aspects of horror. Includes setting, characters, expansion on genres, etc.
Nightmare Fuel (TVTropes) ~ Gives examples (and links) of different things people may (or may not) be terrified of, such as mutilation, the paranormal, extreme violence, being hunted, etc.
I personally find this a tricky subject, but I’d recommend tapping into your own personal fears and reflect that into your writing as best you can.
Try also thinking about the way some horror authors write, like Stephen King or Edgar Allan Poe. Read into some if you haven’t.
Comments? Questions? Advice? Feel free to submit!
: A MASTER POST OF YEAH WRITE’S ADVICE PAGES
Also, there are like 100 more topics under the cut… hence the cut.
Here on Yeah Write, we have a lot of great discussions sparked by asks that followers send in. Having some trouble? Before you send in your own ask, check out some of the discussions we’ve had and see if they can help you!
CONFIDENCE: How to have it when you feel like your writing sucks and everyone is better than you!
EDUCATION: I want to be a writer/work in publishing/a journalist/a writier professor. What should I study in high school and college? Should I go to grad school?
ENGLISH MAJOR!?: To be or not to be an English Major… these days, it seems like every major besides engineering and computer science means you’re not going to get a job! Am I silly to want to major in English if that’s what my gut is telling me??
…AND ON THAT NOTE, WHAT JOBS HAVE FORMER ENGLISH MAJORS GOTTEN? We polled all of our followers and asked those who’d studied English in college what jobs they have now.
INTERNSHIPS: How do I get an internship in the writing/publishing field?
JUGGLING MULTIPLE WRITING PROJECTS: Tips for keeping everything organized and choosing which project deserves the most attention.
MOTIVATION: How can I stay motivated to write when life gets in the way?
PUBLISHING: I like to write, but I don’t know anything about publishing… agh!?
RUNNING A WRITING BLOG: I get questions all the time about how to run a writing blog like Yeah Write. Here are my 8 tips!
— Jack Prelutsky (via writingquotes)
Neil Gaiman has released a book of his great commencement address, Make Good Art.
When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician — make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor — make good art. IRS on your trail — make good art. Cat exploded — make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before — make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.
I love Gaiman’s message, but I also want to make a plug for something else: when the going gets rough, make bad art, too.
When 9/11 and Katrina hit and she lost a bunch of her close friends, Lynda Barry got really depressed, and all she could do is doodle:
I found myself compelled, like this weird, shameful compulsion to draw cute animals. That was all I could stand to draw. You know, just cry and draw cute animals…dancing dogs with crowns on, you know? And, like, really friendly ducks. But I found this monkey, this meditating monkey, and I found that once - when I drew that monkey, it’s not that it fixed the problem. But it did shift it a little bit, or provide me some kind of relief. And that’s when I started to think, maybe that’s what images do, because I believe in all my - with all my heart they have an absolute biological function…
“Good” can be a stifling word, a word that makes you hesitate and stare at a blank page and second-guess yourself and throw stuff in the trash. What’s important is to get your hands moving and let the images come. Whether it’s good or bad is beside the point. Make art.
Showing, instead of telling, is an important part of keeping a story fresh and interesting. It helps make the story you’re telling jump off the page and the setting and characters more believable. So what is “show, don’t tell” and why is it important?
· Description is an important element when setting up a character, place, or situation. Rather than stating that a place is “serene” (Telling), show the reader. By showing you are describing the setting with language that will create a picture in the reader’s head. “Serene” doesn’t help the reader visualize the setting you are trying to create. A sentence like, “The snow floated in over the wall, light and carefree as it brushed by Sara’s red cheeks.” gives a much stronger visual image. (Sorry for the bad sentence! I hope you get my meaning.)
· The “show don’t tell” rule can be applied to more than description. It can also be used to help develop a character. For instance, if a character is angry or sad, don’t describe (tell) their emotional state as “angry” or “sad”. Show the reader what your character does when he or she is angry or sad. Do they slam their fist on something? Silently seethe? Do they sob loudly so everyone can hear them? Or do the tears fall, as if they don’t even notice? Showing these sorts of emotions not only makes reading more interesting for your audience, but also gives you the opportunity to fully develop your character.
· “Show don’t Tell” can also be used to establish conflict. Conflict is a very delicate thing to put in your writing. It should be done carefully and using the “show don’t tell” rule can help keep your conflict from being overdone. If two characters aren’t getting along, you’ll want to show us their interactions. Think about how the characters normally act with people they like and then think about how they would act around someone they don’t like. (Don’t forget to factor in why these two characters don’t like each other! This also affects how they act around one another.) Conflict doesn’t just mean two characters being angry with one another; it can also be a character upset with a situation. Using “show don’t tell” will help keep the conflict subtle and complex.
Showing instead of telling is a crucial part of building a tangible world for your reader. Use it to strengthen your writing and help your characters’ voices shout from the pages.
Okay, so you want to write things. Many things. Beautiful things! Things that seem so awesome in your head! But you have just one tiny, itty-bitty problem:
Everything you write is total, complete shit. It’s so shit you want to print it out just so you can set it on fire so nobody else will ever see it. Maybe someone told you your writing was shit. Maybe you have a bad writing habit or something that plagues you constantly (mine is typos. Horrible, horrible typos). Maybe your idea is so awesome that you’re afraid you’ll ruin it. Well, I have a awesome, wonderful news just for you. One of those secrets that people forget to share. Here it goes:
Writing crap is good for you.
You don’t believe me. Crap is crap! Writing isn’t worth it if all you’re going to write is crap, right? Wrong. Fucking wrong. Fuck that shit so hard. Fuck it until it burns. Writing crap is good for you. Crap is the fertilizer in which your ideas grow. Your shitty first draft will become a beautiful flower, even if it takes many washings to get the stink off. What is crap now can be remade into not crap later, even if that later is much, much later.
Or maybe your crap isn’t worth rewriting. Maybe it’s just best to bury it quietly, with a fond farewell or a bottle of whiskey. You know what? It still did you good to write it. Crap today will improve your writing in the future. It will! You’ll learn where your strengths are. You’ll improve your weaknesses. You’ll reuse ideas you buried, or retweak them in ways you like.
Don’t be afraid to write crap. Don’t feel bad if you think you are writing crap. Everyone writes crap. Your favorite book had a shitty first draft. Your favorite authors had bad writing days. The journalist you admire had her stories rejected. The blogger you follow left his shitty posts on the drawing board.
Everyone writes crap. Don’t let it stop you from writing at all.
I really really really want to know why. Why do people say we can’t use adverbs? I’ve read books and they use adverbs. What’s with adverbs really? By the way, i love you blog—it’s been said many times already but there’s nothing else I could do to make you happy but know it. - drowningchimes
Do not believe anything that tells you you can’t use this or that in your writing. There is not, by any means, a right way to write. You can use adverbs in your writing. Adverbs are a fundamental part of speech, no different than any other.
The problem comes when people use them a lot. When you use any word or type of word continuously, it shows. It gets repetitive. It gets annoying. They also happen to be the part of speech most likely to clutter your sentence to no avail. They can weaken your prose:
- They can be reduntant. E.g: “I hate these idiots!” He yelled angrily. You have a strong verb right here, no need to use “angrily”, I got the idea he was angry.
- They can prop up a weak verb. Let’s take a look at “to boldly go”. Okay, split infinitive. What I mean is that just saying “to go” sorta sounds bland. You may think the adverb is necessary. But no. The verb just happens to be weak, generic, bland. How about replacing the verb? “To venture”, “To explore”. These verbs are more specific, more evocative so to speak.
- The speech tags deal. We go back to talking about “said”. Instead of picking some pompous word to replace said, we spice it up with an adverb. This is often (yet, not always) unecessary. Most of the time, you can let the dialogue speak for itself. Or you can use more things to explain how the characters are saying it, if it’s not clear. “I am dying here!” Kyle waved his arms in the air, trying to make his friends notice him.
- You (probably are) telling instead of showing.
Before using an adverb, you can ask yourself these questions:
1) Does it change the word it modifies? Does it make the verb or adjective mean something drastically different?
2) Does it convey some vital piece of information in a way that’s better or more evocative than real description or a stronger verb by itself?
It’s a thing on style, however. If you like to use lots of adverbs, and feel like they’re necessary, go for it.
In the end, yes, books have adverbs. You can use adverbs. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. Do ask yourself if the message you’re trying to get across with your writing is being sent the best way it can be.
“Every [writing] process you choose should be in service to getting the best story in the way that feels most… well, I was going to say comfortable, but really, comfort is fucking forgettable in the face of great fiction, so let’s go with effective, instead.”