If a normal person told you that they spend hours of their day listening to voices of imaginary people in their head - you'd probably call them crazy. Thankfully I am not a normal person, I'm a writer. Not only do I listen to voices, I look forward to hearing them. I spend my time in the car, at night, in the shower -listening. When I finally sit down to write I replay the conversations I've been hearing and then find the images to go with the voices.
But every now and then a voice stays quiet. That's what happened this week as I tried to make final revisions in my middle grade novel. While most of the characters came in loud and clear, one character, a boy named Mike, held himself back. Unfortunately, without his voice, the novel couldn't come together.
I realized the problem right away. When I first wrote the story, Mike was sixteen. Since then, after many rewrites, rethinks, and replots, all of the other characters realized they were thirteen. Mike continued to think he was sixteen. It was only three years, but it made a lot of difference.
So how could I find Mike's voice? And how could I isolate his dialogue in a way that I could clearly see what he was saying? I decided to do something which was a little crazy, even for a writer. I turned my entire manuscript into a play.
Once the action, images, and thoughts were taken away, I could clearly hear my characters talking. I realized that while everyone else gave short answers with meaning, Mike spoke in speeches. I talked to parents of thirteen year olds, read books with thirteen year old characters, and listened to them in the real world. Finally thirteen year old Mike began talking and he really didn't understand what sixteen year old Mike had been saying.
Do I have him now? I hope so. I have beta readers and an agent who will tell me. But I feel good about the process, even if it was a little odd.
How do you find your character's voice? Ever do anything interesting to find it?