Thursday, December 15, 2011

Write Well Wednesday: Creating the Vocal Character

This post is the third in a series of posts about characterization.  To read the others, go here:  Creating the Visual Character and here:  Creating the Active Character.

Today we're talking about my favorite aspect of the dynamic character!  It's already technically Thursday and I'm bone tired...so, it's going to be a short, sweet post (and I hope I'm not so tired that it doesn't make sense)! 

Today's topic: Creating the character's voice.  This character trait has two areas.  The internal voice and the external voice.

The internal voice is the way the character vocalizes his or her thoughts or feelings to his or herself while the external voice is the way the character expresses his/herself to the other characters in the story.  The reader is privy to the internal voice while the other characters are not, thus creating a bond between the main character and the reader. 

Quite often, the internal voice is very different than the external response.

Example:  A teenaged boy is dared to egg a house by his friends. 

Internally, he's really a good kid and doesn't want to do it; however, he explains to us how much he wants to fit in with his friends.  He'll go through the motions of wondering if he'll get in trouble and he might consider the feelings of the house's owner.  He's having an internal struggle on whether to do it or not and weighing how his friends will react if he says, "No."  The reader is following him through this internal struggle, learning all about his strengths and weaknesses, wants and needs.  From this voice, we come to know that the boy is really a good, sensitive kid who just wants to fit in.  And, depending on how good the author portrays his internal character, they may even come to sympathize with the boy's plight.  They may even see themselves in the boy.  You want this kind of emotional stock!

Externally, the boy's friends watch as the boy, exuding an air of bravado, gets out of the car, tells them he's going to aim for the window, and throws the egg.  He turns around with a big stupid grin on his face when he hits his mark.  From the friend's perspective, we learn that the boy is fearless, brazen, and pretty damn cool.  He can hang with us!

The boy has saved face with his friends, but at what cost to the internal voice?  And how does the reader feel now that they know the boy betrayed his true self so that he could fulfill a social desire?  A writer must think about where they want to lead the reader with all of this conflict!

On the flip side, one character might think that they are exuding a particular air to others -- perhaps trying to reflect what their internal voice is telling them to do, perhaps trying to do the opposite -- but others may not being perceiving them the way they want to be perceived.

Our boy wanted to be cool for one set of friends, but what does he look like to the eighty-year-old grandmother whose house he just egged?  He looks like quite a jerk doesn't he?

These are the kinds of complications that make characters rich.  Be sure to always divide your character between who they are on the inside, what they want others to think, and how those others actually perceive that character.