Monday, October 29, 2012

Your Character's Voice

Well, let’s get back to character development. What’s most fun for me is playing with voices. Each character should have a unique way of expressing himself. Train yourself to listen to people as they speak. Drawls and dialects tell you where they are from. Things like slanginess, crudeness, or formal English hint at social or educational level. Pet words, habitual expressions, and occupational jargon tell about background. Coldness, flippancy, cynicism are a few tones that betray thought patterns, attitudes, and personality. Your character will also use different voices with different people. He may be authoritative with employees or students, while at home he may speak lovingly to his wife and use baby talk with their toddler.

The following are excerpts from Black Sunday. You can access the whole story by clicking the Black Sunday tab up top. From Mrs. Pettigrew’s voice I don’t have to tell the reader she is elderly, from the Midwest, and not well-educated.—Quinn

. . . Town of Guthrie growed-up over night right near us. Got my schooling there. Learned to read and cipher. Ma looked so proud rocking by the fire, mending in her lap, while I read the Good Book to her. Learned all about how folks come to this land for freedom, too. Learned how all folks are important. So, even common folks like us, providing they work hard, can get to be president. Imagine that!
Life was good there in the old days, but Pa said he was feeling cramped. He sold out to Uncle Jed and bought two sections near Boise City. Put in wheat, sorghum, maize, and broom corn. Run a few head of cattle too. . . .
           
. . . Guess I was too big for my britches. I looked over the boys real good. Thought they was all pretty poor quality. But, all that changed one night.
First I seed of Franklin Pierce Pettigrew was at a box social at Preacher Pettigrew’s. He’d breezed in from Texas on horseback. And my! From his Stetson to his boots, he looked mighty fine. Had a sassy smile that shivered my heart. But, oh was he a wild one. Next day he come a calling without asking! Pa like to run him off the place. Didn’t see him again ‘til three months later at the church ice cream social. . . .

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