Showing Character Through Voice

In last week’s post, I shared with you a writing exercise that I completed during my First Three Chapters course at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre. Showing character through action.

This is what I had come up with:

She’s been here for barely a breath and already she spots him. For a moment, she barely shifts. But then her spine goes ramrod straight and she tucks in an imaginary stray lock into her already tightly braided hair. Her eyes narrow and she doesn’t even hesitate. He slim legs launch forward in a crisscross motion, like sharpened scissors, as she heads straight for him. Her razor-like stride is audible across the room, and he definitely knows she’s coming, because he shrinks back. He has nowhere to go. He’s cornered.

This week, our instructor had us do the scene again, this time in first person and using voice to show character.

I’m going to show you what I came up with, but first I’m going to take out the elements of voice, so you can compare and contrast and get a better sense of what voice really means.

Without Voice:

I slide by the bouncer and inhale the stale stench of beer, sweat and theatre smoke. I smooth back an imaginary stray lock of hair into my braid, and just then I spot him.

I grit my teeth and straighten my spine. I could just ignore him, not let him show him that he affects me. That’s probably the best choice. I press my lips together. I’ve had enough.

I slice my legs through the crowd, ignoring the sticky floor that only slightly impedes my progress. But nothing will.

A foot from him and I have him cornered. He flits his gaze, looking for escape. But there is none. I have him cornered, my body blocking his exit from behind the tall table.

“Hello, Ben.” I say. “I thought you were studying tonight” I ask, arching my brow suggestively at the posterior of a tiny blonde.

 

Now here it is again, but this time with Demi’s voice infused in the action.

I slide by the bouncer and inhale the stale stench of beer, sweat and theatre smoke. Lovely. This is going to be another A-class night. I smooth back an imaginary stray lock of hair into my braid, and just then I spot him.

Mother fucker. Had to study, my ass. More like he had to study the asses of co-eds.

I grit my teeth and straighten my spine. I could just ignore him, not show him that he affects me. That’s probably the best choice. The cool girl choice.

I press my lips together. Yeah, but no. Maybe I don’t want to be the cool girl anymore. I’ve had enough of this shit.

I slice my legs through the crowd, ignoring the sticky floor that only slightly impedes my progress. But nothing will. I have him in my sights and I won’t let go until I’m satisfied.

A foot from him and I have him cornered. He flits his gaze, looking for escape. But there is none. I have him cornered, my body blocking his exit from behind the tall table.

“Hellooo, Ben.” I intone. “How’s the studying going?” I ask, arching my brow at the posterior of a tiny blonde.

For more information on voice, from a previous post, click here.

Writing Exercises That Inspire

 

A Hint of Hank…

Henry-Cavill-Immortals-027

In the intermediate creative writing class I took at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre two years ago, our teacher gave us weekly writing assignments. I found these very helpful at flexing my writing muscle and letting the creativity flow. In an interview with Vulture, Gillian Flynn reported that the “Cool Girl” article in Gone Girl came about when she was doing a writing exercise to help alleviate writer’s block. She indicated that, as a rule, she tends not to use writing exercises in her actual manuscripts, as writers tend to “shoehorn” them in. This resonated with me as I had a few that I tried to do just that with, and ended up deleting. However, there are a couple of scenes that started as writing exercises that really inspired the trajectory of my story (in a good way). I thought I would share one with you today.

 

The assignment was to write something from the starter line, “There is a particular place he is going to tonight but…”, and to just let it flow. I thought about my main male protagonist, ‘Hank’ when writing it. This is NOT the version in my manuscript for Unspeakable, but rather the exercise that inspired a ‘TSN Turning Point’ scene (I also removed names and spoilers). This exercise helped me understand ‘Hank’ a little bit better and set the tone of his voice.

I hope you enjoy it!

On the shores of Wabigoon Lake

 

There is a particular place he is going to tonight but he is not prepared to admit to himself where that is. If he ends up there again, it is not on purpose. This is a small town, there are not many streets, it’s only natural – after all this was his hiding place – not hers.

He pulls up to the dead-end street at the edge of town. He kills the engine and tilts the powerful machine onto its stand. He yanks the helmet off of his head, rests it on the black leather seat and runs his calloused hand through his smooth black hair, allowing the cool evening breeze to evaporate the sweat that has gathered in his short locks. He told himself that he was just going for a walk along the familiar pathway, to gather his thoughts, clear his head, to be alone. That’s not what he wanted. He wanted to see her again, to be allowed to touch her. He pushes the thought of her out his mind, pushes his body away from her, quickly marching forward. They are like magnets, you spin them in one direction and the attraction is undeniable, turn one to face the other way and they repel. He is searching solitude yet simultaneously seeking her.

His black boots compress the gravel below him as walks at an anxious pace along the familiar path ahead of him. When he veers off onto the smaller lightly trodden trail, the moonlight shines on the waxy leaves of the birch trees that feather their branches along the route, giving them an ethereal glimmer. Several minutes pass until he can see the clearing that marks their meeting place, the dark water of Wabigoon Lake shimmering in the dim light.

He pauses, the sparkle of the water momentarily mesmerizing him. An owl lets out a solemn cry. As he feared, longed for, and denied – he is alone. He leans against a tree near the waters edge, letting his breath slide out of him in synchronicity with his body as he lets his legs collapse beneath him, dragging his back along the bark, tearing at him.

He rests his head in his hands, trying to get ahold of his conflicting emotions. She had pushed him away and eventually he had responded in kind. He could not expect their friendship to continue. It wasn’t feasible in this suffocating town; where everyone thinks they know you and if they don’t, they make believe they do. There is no place for your own self. His voice will never be heard here – especially now that she is …(sorry, spoiler removed!)

 

If you have writing exercises that helped inspire you, I would love to hear about it!