Find the best voice to represent the scene you’re writing.
Sound advice given to writers by many experts is to write a scene using the best voice to convey the message to the reader. How do we discover that voice?
When a writer plots they have the advantage to know the entire list of characters (or most of the list). A thorough writer will already know the various characters’ traits, backstory, and odd quirks. Those who don’t fully flesh out a plot structure may have these ideas in their mind for the various characters they expect to be in future chapters. Things become more difficult for writers who don’t use plotting techniques. A story skeleton isn’t always written down, sometimes it’s in the mind of the writer.
I agree with many other writers’ opinions that it is crucial to begin with a story skeleton.
Once you begin writing a new project, you should have a grip on who’s the main character(s) and the villain(s). A writer needs to know the basic strengths and weaknesses of those characters and some idea of how they will all come into contact with each other and thus create a conflict. You may have some ideas of possible scenes in your thought process, envisioning something happening. Having things documented doesn’t mean you can’t add more characters into the mix later, to fill a gap that needs a particular voice. You build from the initial ideas of scenes with rewriting.
When writing an individual scene it is best to decide what you want to happen first. Then ask these questions to help find the best voice to pull it off:
- Who has the knowledge needed to convey the information revealed by the scene
- Who can be physically there in reference to the story’s timeline and place
- Who has the most to gain in this scene
- Who has the most to lose in the scene
- If it is an action scene, which character can physically pull it off to win or not and lose depending on the outcome you desire … and most important:
- Which character has the correct mindset and will help the reader connect to the scene
These questions are important and once you decide to write with a particular POV you may later try to use a different one depending on the ‘results you feel’ after you read the scene over.
Case in point: A writer may want the main character, who is a woman superhero in this example, to be the voice as she wipes out a bad guy who may work for the main villain . . . but after reading the scene it may sound too much like other stories and not fresh enough to be an attention grabber. A writer could rewrite that same scene from a victim's POV, as he/she watches the hero fight for them, or a side-kick's POV. This gives a writer the chance to reveal assets or deficits of the character(s) who are fighting, giving the reader an inside scoop possibly, and a new vantage point to notice something different about the main character. This change in perspective may draw the reader more into the story, like being a fan of a sports team, watching the game, and getting emotionally involved with the team players' every move. TENSION a writer's best friend.
There is much more involved to fully flesh out good viable characters, but the point is not to confine your writing. Be Brave. Try new perspectives, let the characters be revealed from many angles.
And when you make the choice to stick to one POV throughout the entire project, make sure that there are other tactics used throughout the story to keep the reader invested in that character, good and bad traits revealed, and enough reasons to keep a reader’s interest.
I’m in the fleshing-out stage of my next project, tentatively named TRAVEL TALES. I have the list of main characters and gave them names specifically for reasons that will add to the message (I hope). Now I’m working on their backstories. I’ve written three scenes so far and already I noticed that I need to rewrite parts to stay true to the voice of the scene.
This is the fun part, right? The rewriting and more rewriting, until we have a voice for each character that rings as true as we can make them appear. The better the story, the more memorable the characters, the more effort that was applied by the writer.
The plot may move the story along, but it’s the characters that keep the reader turning pages.