Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My Progress on Writing "Voice"

Lately, I've been studying voice-making or the technique of making characters sound different through written words.

Yes, I've done this in previous books, but writing Before the Blood is more challenging because I'm introducing many characters simultaneously and many more after that, part of building an entire village from nearly nothing.

Here's some of what what I'm learning, learning in new ways, and simply having reinforced. Consider:

1) Consider dialects and word patterns

2) Likes/dislikes

3) Mannerisms

4) Interests

5) Confidence level/attitude

6) Word choices appropriate for age, sex, location, time period

7) Back story (the character's, not the plot's).

Although I'm slowly writing new scenes, I'm taking passes at previous ones and strengthening the voices of the characters in those scenes. By tightening those voices now, I believe it will make those characters come even more alive for me and make it easier to write new scenes.

Here's one scene for a Thanksiving potluck in the basement of Munsonville Congregational Church. How am I doing?

Soon Mrs. Parks was filling Bryony's tin plate with salt cod in gravy, boiled beans, browned potatoes, baked carrots, cornbread, and apple pudding.

            "Bertha," Mrs. Hasset said as they reached the end of the serving line. She was a plain, but stunning brunette, serious in all matters, as befitted a newspaperwoman, and the only woman Bryony had ever met that consistently wore high lace collars as well as eyeglasses. "Wherever is Reverend? Will he not join us this evening?"

            Mrs. Pike chose that moment to link her arm through Mrs. Hasset's and lead her away, saying, "Lula, have you seen the latest pattern in 'Godey's Lady's Book?'"

            Bryony's cheeks burned, but Mrs. Parks covered the disgrace with a firm grasp on Bryony's wrist as she pushed past the chairs to where Mr. Parks was entertaining Mr. Bass with another fish story. Reverend never celebrated holidays; he didn't believe in them.

            Mr. Parks' ruddy face gleamed with sweat, and his thick fingers gripped his tin. Mr. Bass sat across from him, red-faced and sipping his drink for a change. His lopsided grin resembled that on a Hoberdy lantern because one side of his "Man in the Moon" face was puffy and bruised.

            "So after I reeled him in, Teddy, that durned walleye..."

            "Orville, please watch Bryony."

            "Sure, Bertha, sure." He glanced at Bryony." Now clean yore plate or no dessert. So, Teddy, that fish likely measured..."

            Bryony untied the yarn, unrolled the strip of gray flannel, and tucked it into her collar.

            Mr. Bass took a longer sip. "Walleyes don't grow more'n a foot ana half."

            "Wouldn't believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes." Mr. Parks pointed to one eye and then the other.

            "But three feet? C'mon, Orville!"

            "Teddy, he'd have sunk the boat if I hadn't thrown him back."

            At that moment, Mr. Munson appeared. He threw his arms around Mr. Parks' neck and kissed the top of his sweaty head. "Now gentlemen, don't be shy. There's plenty of barrels, and we don't plan on wasting 'em."

            Mr. Parks jumped to his feet.

            "Orville!" Mrs. Parks had returned with her own food.

            "On second thought, I think I'll grab some grub."

            "Why, that's just what Teddy was thinking, too," Mrs. Bass smiled sweetly at Mr. Munson  as she placed her plate close to Mr. Bass' right hand. Her cheeks were red like apples, even though she wasn't drinking applejack, and one of her bright blue eyes sported a shiner. "Teddy, please help me with my chair."

            Without looking at her, Mr. Bass pulled it away from the table and  took a swig. Mrs. Parks settled at Bryony's right.

            Mr. Munson, ever the exuberant host, moved down the rows. "Dick, don't be shy! Why there's plenty..."

            "Your wife is right," Mrs. Parks looked sternly at Mr. Bass. "The food is going fast."

            "Don't start, Bertha. I hear enough from her." Mr. Bass jerked his head in Mrs. Bass' direction and finished the contents of his mug.

            "I'm merely concerned for your health, Mr. Bass. I'm sure a great big enormous man like you would die of shame if he fainted in a room full of ladies."

            "And you need someone to shut yer fat mouth, sweetie."

            Mrs. Parks smothered a smile as she wedged the napkin into her collar and picked up her fork. Mrs. Bass also began to eat, but her gaze followed Mr. Munson as he roamed the room.

            "Gus! Why the empty mug?" Mr. Munson's voice rang out over the din. "Don't you see those barrels?

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