Posts Tagged ‘voice’


For me, plot and character are interwoven like the DNA strands in a Double Helix. I map out character arcs and plot arcs, but end up looking at them together more than separately because the story has to work as a whole.

That said, here are few things I do to develop character:

1.  I write my MCs life story up until the book starts. This helps me to develop his voice for the actual novel. Nothing beats voice when it comes to story-telling. Your character can be doing something as boring as changing a light-bulb if he’s got a great voice.

2.  In the first draft I ask questions like this continually: What does my character want? What does my character need? What are his internal conflicts?

3.  And all throughout the revision process I keep asking myself: What is my character feeling right now? If I know his back story, I can usually get in touch with what he is going through. Often those feelings make it into the story as thoughts, actions or gestures. And these are the things that show who he is and what he is struggling with.

In one of my manuscripts, I totally changed who the MC was during a revision. I gave him a completely different back story even though in the book he still had to get from Point A to Point B.

I made him both more sympathetic and larger-than-life in a good way. Hopefully he does things that you wish you’d done if you were in his situation but you’d have to be pretty brave to try. At the same time he battles with guilt, anger, lack of self-worth, and helplessness. I think he’s a better fit for the story I’m telling.

So, my final thought on writing compelling characters: Have them take risks. And to have them take risks, put them in risky situations.

Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Maintaining Voice

The voice. I think I lost the voice.

When I’m in the latter stages of revision, and I’ve done everything listed in my Micro Revision post, and I’ve shared the novel with a few beta readers, there comes a time when I try to look at every word in the book. 

Of course, I can’t look at every word individually because words in a story don’t stand on their own. I look at words in relation to the other words around them. But I consider every word when I read sentence after sentence, and here’s the main question I ask:

Are there words I can eliminate while still maintaining the Voice of the MC?

I’m not a fan of chopping words just because the sentence will still read okay without them.

I’m not looking for okay, I’m looking to maintain my MC’s voice.

So, I’m a fan of focusing on my how my MC narrates, speaks and acts, and then going from there.

Do I cut a lot of words? I do. But I don’t cut them because they appear to appear too many times.

If there’s a phrase or word that my MC uses with some frequency, I’ll do a search to see where it pops up and I might delete a few of those entries because the same phrase, no matter how witty, has the potential to lose its punch, or become annoying, if used to often.

And yes, I don’t want my manuscript littered with little words like just, but, so, for, and that. However, I don’t cut these words just because a sentence will still read okay without them.

If you cut words without considering the voice, you might revise the voice right out of your story. And if you do that, it’ll be hard for anyone to connect with your story no matter how good the plot is. I did that once a few years ago and then had to do CPR on my manuscript to bring it back to life.

How about you? Have you ever over-revised a manuscript? How do you determine whether to cut or keep a word? All those little decisions can add up.

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Two Cool Things

I normally don’t post mid-week but wanted to draw your attention to these  links.  They are not related except that both were penned by experts.

The first is a crafty piece by Betsy Lerner on voice. I can always count on Betsy’s posts to be entertaining and thought provoking. It is the exception if I don’t laugh out loud at least once when I read her posts. Today she wants your thoughts on voice.

The second is a piece by Noah Lukeman. His thoughts on how long it might take an agented writer to land a book deal. He shares his thoughts on various submission strategies.

Both of these experts welcome questions from readers, so if you’re wondering about something publishing or writing related, drop them a line.

Happy Writing to all!

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