Of all the things that trouble new authors, finding a character's voice is probably one of the most stressful. How do you write from someone else's POV without it sounding like YOU? Today, Chrystalla Thoma tells about her experience and how she finally got her main character to open up and speak in his own voice. Read on!
A Story Is Born
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To be fair, the idea behind Rex Rising and the whole trilogy (Elei’s Chronicles) was not born in the spring. I can’t really pinpoint it, really, as it wasn’t just one idea but many coming together one late June in 2008 – scraps of unfinished stories I’d written, images of the ocean (I was living in Costa Rica at the time, and Cyprus where I come from is an island), and scientific articles I’d been devouring (my husband is a marine biologist and he’s subscribed to many biology/science journals).
But no matter how many ideas float around, how many interesting tidbits you gather that could form a story, how much time you spend daydreaming (all part and parcel of a writer’s job), it’s not enough. Stories are like babies – the circumstances that give them life are rare and mysterious. Not every idea will become a novel. Not every spark will become a fire.
Well, I did fan the sparks (to keep the metaphor going) and realized that what I needed to bring it all together was the voice of a character.
Now, some years before that, when I had been living in Germany (I’ve moved about a bit as you can tell), a good friend who’s also an awesome writer asked me if I heard my characters speak to me. Now I know this is a common affliction for writers, but back then I thought she was plain mad. Hear them? As in when I’m awake?
That June in 2008 I decided for the first time (it took me a few years – I’m slow to adapt) to think about character voice. Although I’m not like my friend whose stories are literally dictated to her by her characters (and who complain bitterly when she doesn’t do as they say), I am more of a plotter, that is to say, I do have an idea of what the story will be before I start. I have an opening scene, some stuff that need to happen on the way, and more or less the ending. Characters must obey and do as they are told.
I’m sort of bossy.
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However, with my decision taken, I started looking in the books I have lying around, trying to figure this new concept (new for me!) out. Was there a voice in those books other than the author’s voice?
Not all did. Especially in epic fantasy, the voice was borrowed from Tolkien, who had created a fake olden English style, a mish-mash from the Bible and the ancient texts he’d been studying.
And some did. Have a character’s voice, that is. A voice that changed when the point of view changed, a characteristic voice for each person telling the story from their perspective.
My friend had been right. I had been blind (or deaf?) all along.
But how to find my character’s voice? Since he wasn’t talking to me, I had to find him and make him do so.
What helped me were Character questionnaires (how old is he? how was his childhood? does he have a religion? what is his favorite color? does he like animals? etc.). From there, I searched for stories with a voice that could fit such a character. I read, and took notes, and watched some TV, trying to see different modes of speaking (not living in an English speaking country I’m at a disadvantage).
Then I finally sat at my computer once more, opened the document, and gave my character a name.
And he started talking to me.
In fact, he still does. Thank you, Elei.
Greek Cypriot with a penchant for dark myths, good food, and a tendency to settle down anywhere but at home, Chrystalla likes to write about fantastical creatures, crazy adventures, and family bonds. After having lived in France, England, Germany and Costa Rica, she now lives in Cyprus with her husband and enjoys wandering the countryside sampling local food and wine. She writes mainly fantasy and science fiction, primarily for a young adult public and her stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies.
Follow Chrystalla on her Fan page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Chrystalla-Thoma/117863861560579
Rex Rising (Book 1 of Elei's Chronicles): http://www.amazon.com/Rex-Rising-Eleis-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B005GZPOQE
Rex Cresting (Book 2 of Elei's Chronicles) will be released on the 9th of March.
Hera, a novelette set in the world of Elei's Chronicles: http://www.amazon.com/Hera-Eleis-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B005UY43EA
Check out the Rex Rising group on Facebook to follow updates on the series: