Monday Challenge: The Voices

Tin Foil Hat

New in Autumn Writer Fashion…(Photo credit: James Provost)

(The following post has been translated from Early Monday Morning Sleepy-Brain Language. Be grateful. The original was entirely curse words.)

Do you ever talk to yourself?

I do. All the time. Admittedly, not as much now as when I was a kid, when I would occasionally be caught holding absent-minded conversations with myself in the grocery store.* Now when I do it I’m either a) trying to figure out something or b) trying out dialogue for characters. I don’t know that either of these options makes the habit healthier, but at least it serves a purpose, right?

Dialogue is the biggest one. Writing is in part acting—you have to find the voice of the character in order to write them with any conviction. You have to walk in their skin for a little while, even if—especially if—the idea of doing so makes your skin crawl. You have to speak with their voice. So sometimes I do.** While pacing around my living room. I don’t have a tinfoil hat yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

In the meantime, the new novel means lots of new characters. Which means lots of walking around the living room muttering to myself. And when I’m done with the muttering, I write test scenes.

Think of it like this: the character is a costume. You can design a costume, see it, draw it out, even cut out the pieces and sew it together. But until you try it on you’ll never know how it fits. If it’s too tight or too loose somewhere. If maybe it needs a little padding or some pockets. Then you can make adjustments if you need them.

Your characters are the same. So I encourage you to try them on for size before starting to write The Real Story in earnest. This week’s Monday Challenge is to write a test scene for one of your characters. Doesn’t have to be part of the story; after all, these people had lives before the events started. Some of them might even have lives after. But try them out for a scene or so, get some dialogue going. Really slip into that character’s skin. See how they fit. Figure out what’s missing, or what’s unnecessary.

And when you’re done, take them off and hang them in a closet, and know that you can slip back into them any time you need to.

*I sometimes wonder how often my parents considered pretending I was someone else’s kid and just walking away.
**I just realized I was talking to myself while I tried to think of the next line of this post. Guess I was in character as Blog Writer.

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