Writing Secrets: Listen for your character’s place in the world

 In All About Writing, Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Tips for Writers

Develop a character’s voice well and we’ll immediately understand more about their world view and their place in the world.

Last week, I spoke about the importance of voice for showing age, personality, educational level and facility with words.

But your character’s interests, beliefs and situation will affect their voice just as much. Their references may be to books or art. Their metaphors might be biblical, or sporting, or perhaps have to do with teeth, if they’re a dentist, or to wood, if they happen to be a carpenter.

In the beginning, we were just about in the same boat as Adam and Eve. We had to learn the names of everything.The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

They might speak with ease of some arcane subject, but their words will also show us something of the way they view the world. Compare these two:

There are two occasions when the sacred beauty of Creation becomes dazzlingly apparent, and they occur together. One is when we feel our mortal insufficiency to the world, and the other is when we feel the world’s mortal insufficiency to us. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

I think I’ll give the last word to Mordechai Richler’s Joshua Shapiro, with his irreverent spirit and ease with sporting vocabulary:

Mort Cooper pitched a one-hitter over the Dodgers, and the same day Charlie Keller drove in seven Yankee runs with two homers. In the National League race, Brooklyn led the Cards by three-and-a-half games and the boys were betting they would meet the Yankies in the World Series.

The boys, the boys. Bless them, please.

Read Richard’s latest blog ‘Monday Motivation: The Writer, the Hero, and his Journey

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