Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Vocal Impressions

Eileen Astels

I’ve been thinking about voice a lot lately. I’m not talking about a writer’s voice that is acquired over years of writing and fine tuning their style, I’m referring to the audible voice of our characters.

There are many ways to reveal characterization, and we’re told to try and use as many of the five senses as possible within our novels to add richness and texture to our stories. Hearing is one sense that I often don’t utilize enough. Sure, I try and use onomatopoeia words when possible and describe the rev of an engine with its annoying clickity-clank to give reason for the next repair scene, but what about describing our characters’ unique auditory voice?

Is it enough to have our POV (point of view) character describe another character’s voice as melodic, raspy, alto, tenor, squeaky, high pitched? The list could definitely go on and on, but what about those single-word descriptions? Do they offer enough to give an auditory sense of how the character really sounds? Or is there another way to reveal our character’s voice that might resonate better with our readers?

I did some googling on this subject and discovered that there is a creative way to disclose your character’s voice beyond those general descriptions. If you take a look at this online article you’ll discover how some have described the voice of popular celebrities.

The one I like the best is Bill Malvitz’s description of Marilyn Munroe’s voice. He says: “A voice to make a 7-year-old boy think differently about girls.” If we want to convert that to a one-word description, the best I can come up with is sultry. But doesn’t Malvitz’s description provide a far superior “auditory picture” of Marilyn Munroe’s voice as well as reveal character of not only the one owning the voice, but of the POV character’s personality as well, as this is how he/she chooses to describe it to the readers after all. I’ll never forget this picture that Malvitz’s created through his description, but I’d definitely sweep over the word “sultry” in a novel. Would you?

So, the next time you come to a place in your wip (work in progress) where you’re wanting to describe a main character’s voice, consider doing so by painting a picture, using a simile, metaphor or even an analogy to reveal how this character’s voice is perceived by your POV character. Your readers may hear your characters in a richer, more personal state than they would have with the use of one of those more generic adjectives commonly used today.

I hope this offered some food for thought. I’d love to hear how you reveal your character’s voice in your novels. We can all learn from each other!



Eileen Astels posts daily, Monday to Friday on her A Christian Romance Writer’s Journey blog where she offers study notes on writing resources, Authors-Helping-Writers Interviews with Giveaways and Musing’s Friday with Vocabulary Enhancement. She also writes book reviews for ACFW’s Afictionado E-zine.


carlaspathways said...

Thanks for participating in the Carnival of Christian Writers!
Great article!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

You're very welcome, Carla. Thanks for including me in it!