Last night my local writing group held a Reading Night. It was a wonderful thing.
For one thing the participants got to read their stories to an appreciative audience who simply wanted to have fun (as opposed to sending their story to an editor or a critique partner who is looking for things to reject).
And for another, there were some experienced performers in the group, who gave feedback and tips on the actual performance part of the reading. Invaluable stuff.
Reading your work is something you’ll be called upon to do as published author, so practice the skill (very different from writing!) as often as you can!
Last night’s reading prompted this, er prompt, because so many of the characters came alive when they had a distinctive voice, a distinctive patois. One story featured a rising politician, who used all the kinds of phrases you might expect of a rising sleazebag politician.
Another story featured a 1968 California Happening dude, who talked just like you would expect (expertly performed by a man who looked the right age to have been there.)
These stories, more than all the others, stuck with me because of the authenticity of the character’s voice. And that’s what I want you to practice this week.
Give Your Character A Distinctive Voice
Make your character have a job or a background with a specific set of jargon (for example: a stock broker would sound very different from a tuned-in, turned-on dude from 1968 Haight-Ashbury)
Get them into conversation with another character as soon as possible and see if you can keep their voices so distinct that you rarely have to write ‘he said’.
Concentrate on the rhythms of speech and the special phrases or jargon your character might use.
How would your character deliver their lines? Tentatively? With lots of preamble? Stridently? Rather than using these adverbs, let your characters use words that capture the content of their character
If you need more inspiration watch a supercut of Robin Williams as the genie in Aladdin and try to capture that kind of vigor in the words you put in the characters’ mouths! (But set a timer, so you don’t end up disappearing down a YouTube rabbit hole…)
This month’s theme at StoryADay is about finding support in our writing lives, and that has me thinking about connection.
I have this thesis that writing is all about connections: connecting with another person (your reader)’s brain; connecting with the writers who inspired you; connecting with other people working in your genre; connecting with your past and future selves; connecting with the great web of human experience on this planet.
So today I want you to write a story that touches on some of these things.
Write A Story About Connections
This story could be about one significant connection (or missed connection) or it could be a series of interlocking or parallel connections.
You might write a story like the movie “Sliding Doors” where multiple possibilities hinge on the decision of a moment.
You might write three different people’s stories, all of them making different kinds of connections, and examining how each decision impacts their futures (or pasts, if it’s that kind of story).
Use your brainstorming time to think about the kinds of connections you value and how you get support from the people in your life. How does each type of connection make you feel? What do you miss? How can you convey the emotions that come up, in a story?
For bonus points, post in the comments here and find a friend to write a joint-story with. You could alternate lines, or brainstorm together, or each take one section of the story.