Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Voice & Character Motivations

Of all the components that add up into a good story, 'Voice' is probably the one I'm most confident in.

Grammar and pacing are the two biggest things I struggle with, but let's go back to the whole Voice thing.

I love Voice.

If Voice is good, a reader can forgive a lot...

But there's a downside (or so I've learned) to being able to easily slip into the Voice of a character.

You can get sucked so deeply into the main character's Voice, that you lose the big picture. You can't pull back the focus and examine the other characters, see what they want, how they will naturally react, etc.

Your perception narrows to a single viewpoint.

Good for Voice, bad for plot progression when you need another character to move/act and push the story forward.

...and I wonder if I get too indulgent...

Especially when I read back through a scene and realize that I've referred to a very famous (and respected) artist as, "... suckling at the addictive teat of Jungian psychotherapy..."

Jay's no-filter Voice is... perhaps a little addictive for me?

...'cause it takes a lot for me to lose my own filter, and when it's gone, I really do say things like:

"I wouldn't climb into a stranger's van for candy, but if he held up a nice bordeaux, I'd hop right in!"

(This is why I should not ever be on Twitter. I am not to be trusted with communication methods that are not editable)

This post has a point, I swear.

I've been character-motivation-blocked in SCARLIGHT because Jay's Voice is so... addictive? I can't break away and figure out what Kell wants, and where I currently am in the story, she's just wrestled control away from Jay. It's now her move to call the shots and... and... and...

'Out, damned spot, out I say!'

(cue loud throat clearing)

'Out, damned Jay, out I say!'

(casually thwacks side of head to rattle brain back into position)

Okay, this is getting me nowhere...

Any brilliant ideas/suggestions?


  1. Hah! That is an annoying problem to have. I find I have the opposite problem, where I get a voice and then feel it slipping away -- Ghoulish feels like that, one reason why edits on it go slowly. I figure it can be broadened past strong voice to a strong character -- some just dominate scenes/situations via personality, sheer chutzpah and the like and it's hard to drag stuff away from them.

    The plot comment is interesting. I have had stories stall because one character overwhelms the others and mutes their voices. Never thought of it that way before, but it does explain some things..Hmm. The best thing I've ever used for that (subconsciously) was to do the entire story in my head from that character's pov when writing things for them.

    1. Yeah, slipping away... that's exactly how it feels, but instead of slipping into my own head/voice, it's into a character.

      Haha, yeah, so many of your side-character just take over. Like the ogres? And your Jay takes over too and overwhelms the magician.

      Do you think because your Jay, and my Jay, their desires are so strong they push forward past the less 'aggressive' characters?

      This is probably the first story where I have equally self-interested characters... Jay, Donny, and now it looks like Kell has more bite than I first gave her credit for.

      ...or maybe Jay just brings out the worst in everyone around him...

    2. I think my Jay is a bit of a cheat, since the lisp makes his 'voice' easy to snag. But he IS by far the least complex character in the whole series, probably the least complex character I've ever done. What you see IS what you get, since he's not human -- he can hide what he IS, but not the who of it -- at least not from the magician at all. Whereas even as a viewpoint character the magician keeps the reader at a remove and it (often) some steps ahead of other people he runs into, or fakes it so well they never tell the difference. Charlie is definitely the most human since she's right in the middle.

      (The ogres still need to show in the new version of Boy and Fox, but will have one appearance only because they are, well, so much themselves.)

      My Jay is an innocent; yours an ass; both sides of a spectrum that pull the same out of other people, I think. And tend to alter people around them because they're purely something, where other characters tend not to be. I suspect characters who are functionally one-emotional [vs. one dimensional] probably tend to cause others to orbit them by virtue of a kind of purity. The sun is simple (fire), the planets complex, but they orbit it instead. As a very, very bad analogy.

    3. Hmmm... your Jay is the least complex, or the most honest character you've ever written?

      ...and is there a difference?

      So, you're telling me sociopaths ARE the centre of the universe? O_o

    4. Heh. I think there is a difference. I have one line I like in another series where one crazy-intelligent person points out that if you are intelligent enough you never have to lie -- which isn't the same as telling the truth at all. I'd probably say the magician or Reynard Fox are my most honest, simply because they know when/how to use truth to terrible effectiveness. And they often won't lie to protect you, which is where tact comes from in part....

      As for my Jay, he has lied (badly, and easily caught out, but even so :)). He sees everything in terms of bindings and connections and patterns, so making bindings with people is his thing: the more connections, the more he is rooted int the universe, and friendship is the best binding ever!!! (In his head at least.) So, unless someone attacks/harms a current friend -- Charlie or the magician -- he wants to Be Your Friend and people who don't want to accept bindings baffle him utterly. He knows humans can't see bindings like he does, but he doesn't think they are quite that stupid :) Which makes for fun frustration on his part since he just doesn't get some parts of humanity at all or pointless things humans worry about.

    5. Haha, oh if I were only that intelligent... tact is, unfortunately, beyond my grasp some days.

      Hmmm, I suppose it is just a slightly different angled lens. Your Jay does seem complex to me, and maybe 'honest' is not quite the wrong word... but the way his view of the world fits together, it's not just black/white because you've admitted that there are different values of 'bindings'. People aren't simply friends or enemies, there seems room for an infinite variation of gradations.

      I do like your Jay :)

    6. True. In my head, Jay tries to be simple because he's scared the magician might not trust him if he was complicated. A lot of this novel is exploring how worried the magician is getting over Jay's, well, dependance. When you see someone as your master because you are bound to them, it is rather hard to be anything else, no matter if they want you to.


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