My brain has been full of 'The Rules of Riding Shotgun' these past couple of weeks. I think I've read through the entire manuscript 7 or 8 times.
I re-read the start of 'Scarlight' yesterday to prepare for NaNo, and I already noticed a few things I'm going to have to watch for when swapping voices from the anonymous MC of 'Shotgun' to the cynical/bitter Jay from 'Scarlight'.
I wanted the MC to sound really anxious, so s/he has these really long run-on sentences that leave you breathless, and partially formed half-sentences (usually starting with 'and' or 'but') since I wanted to mirror Triss' car, the way it struggles to get going, but when it does, it's going fast and the brakes don't work very well. I know that's something no one's picked up in the story, and I don't care. It was there for myself, 'cause I'm, 'know, just slightly over-analytical about weird things :)
Jay, on the other hand, is really eloquent/learned, but he shifts fast between almost bored disinterest, and sharp, cutting comments/observations. He's a little unstable, but fiercely fighting to always seem in control. I'm thinking about different brush strokes when I write Jay's voice, at how different amounts of pressure and lift can completely change the depth and breadth.
The two characters really aren't that similar, and I'm pretty careful about giving characters different voices, even in their thoughts, but sometimes things leak in accidentally... and since I've spent so much time (lately) in MC's head, I don't want any of that getting on Jay. (See? MC's voice right there! I only noticed while doing a final edit/check of this post.)
Some of the 'Shotgun' MC words/phrases:
any excessive description having to do with the heart, breathing, and/or temperature
any metaphors/similes having to do with cars/engines/driving/music
starting sentences with 'and' or 'but'
Strangely enough, out of all of those, I think the "starting sentences with 'and' or 'but'" is going to be the hardest to weed out, and it'll have to be something I purposefully go back and check for.
Jay is definitely more biting/sarcastic in the way he notices things, and since he's an artist, he sees/thinks more by colour/shape/light/etc than by temperature and proximity (the MC has a really strong 'thing' about touching). Jay has a touching thing too, but it's a desire to touch, rather than an aversion.
One small thing I know now, after re-reading 'Scarlight' (well, the 15,000 words I have written of it) is where Kell lives. There was a funny, dangling little paragraph I had written at the end of the file, and I had no idea if it even belonged in the story or not, but it clicked... it's where Kell lives.
Now, of all the things I have to watch for, there are several things I know are going to be 'repeated', since they're in every story I write:
1) There's always at least one vomit reference/joke
2) There's always something about a cat (even just a reference, or something somewhat disgusting, like in 'Shotgun')
3) Tactile sensations are always very important, as is colour and temperature.
4) Now that I'm keeping that dangling scene, there's also a shower scene :) ...and if you were around back when I was first drafting 'Shotgun', you might remember that the shower scene was pretty much my favourite scene to write in the entire story. Mostly, 'cause it was funny. But maybe it was a scene only I would find funny...
5) I think the one factor that's always in any story I write, even in the short flash fiction pieces, is my characters are always missing something fundamental, something that makes them decidedly less human, or stunted, when compared to those around them. Probably my 'Shotgun' MC is missing the most (even his/her gender!), but finding the missing piece of themselves is always a very large part of their character arcs.
Jay is... hmmm, missing empathy, I suppose. He feels he's been betrayed & ditched so many times that he no longer knows how to connect with other people, and has no desire to. He's a little sociopathic when you get right down to it, but in a sad sortof way.
Yeah... I really DO write 'unlikable' characters, don't I?
Well, I'm going to walk Eva, then sit down and whack out my 1,667 words for the day.
How about you guys? Whether you're doing NaNo or not, how do you prepare to swap into the right voice of a particular story? Do you have a playlist, or re-read the last page you wrote? How do you ensure you're sticking with a character's unique voice and don't let another character's (or your own!) leech in?