August 04, 2011

Adventures in Writing Voice

Happy Thursday, guys! This week is mostly work, work, work, but in the process of doing some of that work, I came across some great tips on characterization and voice on Cockeyed Caravan, the blog of Matt Bird (husband to fab blog friend Betsy Bird of Fuse #8 and recent father of the Baby Bird). Matt is a screenwriter, but his blog posts about various aspects of storytelling and writing pertain just as well to the fiction writer.

I ran across a few choice posts from Matt's blog as I was putting together a handout on voice for an upcoming teen writing workshop I'm doing (if you're in the Seattle area, it's on Aug. 9, 4:00 pm, Lynnwood library). He's got an entire series of posts on putting together a compelling character. In particular, Part 3 (Choose a Metaphor Family) and Part 4 (Determine Their Verbal DNA) have some great tips for finding a character's speaking voice. As Matt put it: "So far I’ve focused on how to make characters compelling through behavior, but, alas, eventually they have to open their mouths, too."

Seriously, though, there's some great practical advice for making your characters' voices distinctive and making your writing sing. Like this: "You need a way to find hard-and-fast rules that always govern how a character talks, even as their emotional state varies and their general attitude shifts. This is their verbal DNA." He's even got a chart. We love charts.

If you're looking for more voice advice, check out this Suite101 article on Finding an Authentic Voice in Writing for Young Adults and another one with Character Voice Writing Exercises, and It's Not What They Say on Writing-World for hints on making your characters' speech come to life.


LinWash said...

Wow, thanks for all of the tips. I'm writing a thesis on Joseph Campbell's mythic structure, so Matt's blog was a nice resource.

Good luck on your workshop!

Sarah Stevenson said...

Yay! Thanks. Glad to be of help. :) I find that, especially if I've been slogging away at a project for a while with my blinders on, it really helps to refresh myself on general writing approaches and to try to find new ways of looking at the process.

tanita✿davis said...

As usual, Matt Bird rocks the house.
I'm so glad to have stumbled on his blog (okay, Betsy pushed me).