While paging through a writing book I have (Writing from Within: the Next Generation by Bernard Selling) I came across an interesting exercise – write in your childhood voice. Mr. Selling’s book is about writing personal histories and he finds that by “reliving” their childhoods his writers come across more interesting stories than when they are just an adult looking back.
But I quickly found that this exercise translates well to fiction writers as well. Anyone who knows me, knows that I tend to talk to my dog Daisy when I’m stuck while writing. She’s my walking, barking thesaurus; knows everything about my characters that drives me crazy and constantly has to answer questions like “Does that come off as funny or just weird?”
I’ve started combining my tendency to talk aloud with Mr. Selling's advice to write from your childhood voice. When I run into a dead end (or a road with just too many possibilities) I try talking in my character's voice. No, I don’t do actual imitations but I do try to think the way my characters would and say the things they would say. You’d be surprised once you get started how quickly you “get into character”. It’s a way to work through what happens next not as a writer, but as the actual character.
I have a few tips:
- Do this when you’re alone. You feel less self-conscious if you’re not around family and friends and you’re less likely to find yourself explaining to concerned baristas that you are not hearing voices, you’re just a writer.
- Don’t go into it with a firm purpose like, I need to find out why X would do Y. Start with a few things you know and let it snowball from there, saying whatever pops into your head. It’s like free writing aloud.
- Record yourself. If you’re busy listening to what you’re saying and searching for the perfect solution to your writing problem, you can’t really let go and become the character. And when you do play that tape back you’ll often be surprised with what you said. Sometimes it’s just one word. I tried this when one of my characters died and I thought another character was angry. But as that character, I mentioned being afraid. It gave me a whole new direction to consider. Was my character afraid? And of what?
Jodi is a WOW Blog tour organizer, always looking for her next WOW author. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her blog Words by Webb is at http://jodiwebb.com. She also blogs for her local newspaper about books at Building Bookshelves. In her free time (!) she works on her historical novel Cookie Ladies.