Voice (not the way we usually talk about it)

“Voice” is a term used in writing to convey the unspoken personality of the author. The part which makes your writing definably and obviously yours. At least, that’s what I think it means. For an industry based 100% around using words, the professionals latch onto some seriously strange lingo at times, so maybe after all this time I’m still misunderstanding what a “voice” is.

But that’s not what I’m interested in talking about. I mean the character’s actual spoken voices.

I’m Australian, born and bred, but I default to a vaguely proper British accent (the Queen’s English) for many of my characters. It could have something to do with the fantasy genre which I write for most frequently; we’re kind of indoctrinated to having medieval fantasy, with British accents on all the characters (especially when pictured in film). It seems to be my standard fall-back option, but it works well enough. It’s different enough from my everyday to be interesting to me.

There have been times where my characters are from a specific real-world location. Those characters always happily exist with their proper accents. Australian, Japanese, or locality-specific locations in the USA (who do have some of the most amazingly varied types of accents I’ve ever experienced, next to the Brits) have made their appearances in some stories.

I think I stick to familiar accents, just for the simplicity of it. As amusing as a Welsh character would be to create and read (I’m looking at you, Jacob), I just have that much more experience with Aussies or Americans.

This, of course, all makes the “read it out loud” part of editing my work into a very humourous exercise. I try to do it privately, to save my family from the bad accents I’m putting on (and save myself the embarrassment!). I’m no voice actor. But I know my character’s voices.

~A

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13 thoughts on “Voice (not the way we usually talk about it)

  1. That’s a good point; voices help bring the characters to life. Accents is actually something I’ve never paid that much attention too; I will definitely be doing so from now on.
    I can imagine it would make for an interesting reader experience! Reading aloud, that is. Away from family, like you said; otherwise people will ask what the heck is wrong. My family, at least.

    1. Thanks for visiting, Natasha! I’m glad you’ve taken something from my ramblings; I have always been fascinated with accents, so you’re right, they can mean a lot to characterisation!

      ~A

      1. No problem!
        Accents are one of those things I’ve always subconsciously thought about, but never incorporated into my writing. Characterisation is one of the most important parts of writing, so if adding a small detail like this will help me, I’ll be ecstatic.
        I’m glad I came across your blog!

  2. Creating different voices for characters has always been a challenge for me. In my first drafts they all then to sound much the same. But in subsequent rewrites I can usually get them into their own voices. Perhaps because I really know them by then.

    1. I think you’re right about getting to know them! After your first run-through, your impression of a character has been put to the test, and you will definitely see them in a new light!

      ~A

  3. haha, I do that when I read book with an accent in them. I go lie in bed and talk out loud during the dialogues. You’re so cute; I wouldn’t think to read it aloud when editing, but I suppose you have to!

    1. Aww, that’s super sweet! I have definitely read some other author’s books out loud with voices assigned to characters (especially children’s books; it’s kind of a necessity to have voices if you’re reading to kids!). Reading out loud for editing purposes is entirely so I can see how well a sentence works. 🙂

      ~A

  4. MY ACCENT IS IN ALL CAPS

    IT’S WHO I AM

    Actually, that’s a joke. Every accent I write is a heavy west-Russian/Ukraine-border English. That’s how you know I’m good.

  5. This is great. I have one character in my most recent novel who’s a sort of badass, back-country sheriff from Texas, and my husband says that I started to talk like him while I was working on the book. =) Fun stuff.

  6. I love the proper application of accents. I remember reading Macbeth out loud in high school Brit Lit; I volunteered to read the character Ross (aka Mr. Boring MacExpositionPants). Once my lines came around, I was the only person in class who actually used a Scottish accent, and it paid off, because even my most apathetic classmates actually paid attention & knew what was going on for a change.

    Both as an actor & a writer, too, character voice is one of my favorite tools.
    In high school plays with big ensemble casts of largely-underwritten characters, voice acting was crucial to distinguishing one nutty peripheral character from another. Indeed, my worst performance was when I had a character who I couldn’t figure out the voice for; he just said things lifelessly.
    And when I’m writing dialogue, I obsess over inflection & shades of meaning, so that I can write intelligent characters who imply things without sacrificing clarity…or best-friends-since-infancy who can believably go from intense bickering to caring support in an instant…or characters based on people I’ve met online who match the personalities they’ve presented to me…wait, should I have said that last one? 😉

    1. My absolute favourite spoken mannerisms are those of the different animals in the Redwall book series. And yes, I did read some parts of those out loud, too. 😀

      ~A

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