A Word on Voice

I have a personal bias when it comes to writing dialogue. It’s easily my favorite part of the whole affair of writing a story. Fiendishly difficult if you go in not knowing what your characters are talking about, if you’re making up the subject matter as the conversation goes. But if you actually have a good grasp of what they’re talking about and how the conversation is going to conclude, it’s pure fun.

Probably because I love voices. Not literary, narrative voice of the text, but people’s actual physical voices, the sound that comes from the vibration of vocal chords, the ups and downs in tone, accents, timbre, texture. From screeching banshees to velvety Jeremy Irons. There’s so much personality to be found in a person’s voice. It’s almost a kind of essence emanating out of the soul, if you will, since it’s easily the most obvious thing that we humans can produce. And in dialogue, you capture those vocal idiosyncracies on paper and combine them with the person’s diction, which would reveal his or her cultural background, education, and age.

I think it’s very important to know how to listen. There’s a conversation going on among a number of people on the table and you just sit back and listen to everyone’s voices. Pick out idiosyncracies: what happens to the person’s voice when s/he gets agitated? Tense and low, or high-pitched and scratchy? How does s/he use his words? Efficiently? Or a total word-spewer? How often does s/he use interjections? Rhetoric? How does the voice rise and ebb when s/he is trying to make a point?

Stuff like that.

In other matters (which does not extend to much), I’m tackling Derrida for my presentation in literary theory. After reading quite a bit about him, I think I actually like Monsieur Derrida. He had a lot of guts to say something like that.

This, unfortunately, does not necessarily make research and outlining the logic of the presentation easier. And the adrenaline high from realizing that you actually understand the dude enough to like him does not last very long.

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Posted on March 29, 2007, in School of English, Sydney, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I gotta agree with you but I find it easier to write the dialogue by kinda letting it flow on its own. More fun for me that way. Ironically, I somehow manage to define the murky personalities of characters in the process. 😉

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