This article first appeared over at Write Anything
In a four part article, writing dialogue will be discussed, with hints and tips drawn from personal experience and from notes taken in workshops and writing seminars.
This week looks at finding your writing voice to express natural dialogue.
As writers, we all begin to sound like basketcases when we start talking about the inner voice and characters voices. Its important to be comfortable with your writers voice, tone and style before honing the skills of authentic dialogue (and those pesky character voices).
A writers voice is the way it sounds on the page and has to do with the tone it takes and the words chosen to express those things. Similarly, the voice your character takes on is indicated by the words and phrases they choose to employ.
Finding your writers inner voice can be one of the longest journeys undertaken. For many emerging writers, there is a perception that they must include certain words or phrases, or sound a certain way so that they are seen as intelligent or witty, humorous or deep thinking ( or whatever other mask they may believe they must wear in order to ‘survive’ as a ‘serious’ writer.) In the same way, a mistake undertaken by many new writers is to over-think dialogue, inserting their own style and tone – or their perception of what it “aught to sound like”, instead of allowing the characters voice to come through.
“As you become proficient in the use of language, your style will emerge,” write Strunk and White in The Elements of Style, “because you yourself will emerge…”
Trusting oneself is probably the hardest challenge a writer has to overcome. When a writer trusts in their own ability to express what they mean with honesty and integrity; only then will their authentic voice begin to come through. A natural writers voice comes across as both strong and confident regardless of the narrative. Seeking to be original, different or attempting to copy anothers style will ultimately end in failure.
“Confident writers have the courage to speak plainly; to let their thoughts shine rather than their vocabulary.” ~ Ralph Keyes.
Voice and Voice
Taking this a step further, trusting your characters voices to express their personalities and world view within your narrative, takes this to a new dimension. Your story is delivering a message. The role of a writer is to access the inner voice required to deliver a particular piece of dialogue (and the message) – to trust that inner voice and allow it the freedom to flow – and in some cases allowing the floodgates to open to different character voices.
When it comes down to it, dialogue is simply a conversation and in this instance, a multi layered one between characters and between characters and the writer. Begin freeing the conversation by asking your characters open ended questions and trusting that the first response your inner voice emits – is the authentic one.
At Write Anything, we have discussed the two main styles of writing – that of plotters and pantsers. The process for finding the characters voices for your narrative is the same, regardless to which camp you may belong. Begin with research notes, strong background stories and motivations and using these, climb into the skin of the characters to view the world as they do. A plotter may know where they are directing the conversation between characters, whereas a pantser may allow their characters to explore their environment and reveal through their conversation, key points or direction for the progression of the story. Either way, by trusting in the process, the words a characters will utter come from somewhere inside the writer and continue to flow, so long as the trust remains.
Voice is a reflection of how your character experiences the world of your story and how they carry your message to your readers. The real test of an authentic voice is consistency and that it is as strong and recognisable at the beginning of a story as it is at the end.
Next weeks post will look at factors to consider when finding each character’s “voice”, as well as their personality.
For more tips on finding your writing voice, click here.
Part One can be found here.