Monday, August 10, 2009

Getting Inside Your Characters

I've been working on After the Fall for a couple weeks now, and so far the majority of my time has been spent editing. I haven't read it since putting the file away at the end of last November, so I'm able to approach it with very fresh eyes.

I haven't jumped ahead at all, and I've tried to get through one chapter each day. I was more than a little surprised when I opened the document Thursday and realized the next chapter was blank. Well not completely blank, I did write myself two lines of notes and labeled the chapter "Need to Write."

No kidding.

It took me two days, but I wrote a six-page chapter. I know that doesn't seem like much, but I've done very little writing on this wip so this feels like quite an accomplishment. Since starting I've added a little over 3000 words, and I'm not even to the end, which still needs to be written.

In addition to all this, I'm finding my characters' voices. Logically, each character needs to have a unique speech pattern -- I've heard that you should be able to tell who's speaking by the dialogue alone -- but that's always been a challenge for me. Yesterday I realized one female character basically talks like my mom (that's a good thing -- she's a highly educated individual) while the other adult woman talks more like me (still educated but an occasional "like" and "you know" slips in).

This is very exciting for me. The words are flowing even more easily now that I've got the characters figured out.

Do you ever base a character's speech pattern on someone you know in real life?

20 comments:

Melanie's Mom said...

I'm very curious to read After the Fall to find our what my speech patterns are! I have no idea how I talk that's different from someone else...

Melanie Avila said...

Mom, I thought you might chime in. I'm not sure the best way to describe it, but she's very matter-of-fact and speaks her point clearly.

Melanie's Mom said...

OK -- I can live with that :)

Melanie Avila said...

Good. :)

LurkerMonkey said...

Melanie,

I've never based a speech pattern on someone I know, but I do try to make sure characters speak in a way that makes sense to who they are ... if that makes any sense :)

By the way, the puppy is cute!

(p.s. I posted the first story this morning!)

EriCan said...

I was just thinking about this topic this weekend. I have a lot of trouble with making the characters dialogue unique to them. I'm trying with this new story to make all of them have something that stands out in their speech. I have a british guy in my WIP, so I have some studying to do on the slang. That was really the only way I could make the patterns different for now- make him from another country ;)

Congrats on the writing! That's great. I'm so glad you're excited! It makes the writing go so much faster and smoother.

How far are you in the story?

Melanie Avila said...

Lurker, I think you explained that about as clearly as I did, so yeah, I got you. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Erica, I'm excited for YOU with your new story. It takes some practice, for me anyway, to figure this part out. I think my dialogue is usually pretty strong, so now I'm trying to take it up a step.

I wrote 63K words in November, which was about 23 chapters. My outline has 27 chapters, and I'm on chapter 12 now, or the 24K word mark. I think that's roughly a third of the way through.

JLC said...

Its great that you are making so much progress!

Some of my characters are similar to characters I've seen in movies or tv shows. (Sigh.. there's more evidence for script writing. Geesh!)

Nadine said...

LOL - I do the same thing and put "Need to write" in caps or red font.

I don't think I've based a character's speech pattern on anyone else, but in every book, I am one of the characters - meaning they have my mannerisms and dialogue.

I'm excited to get back to writing this week!

Melanie Avila said...

JLC, I think it's so cool you're considering writing a script (even if you're resisting the signs). I wouldn't even know where to start.

Melanie Avila said...

Nadine, I bet you have a lot of energy for your writing now!

I have to be careful not to have every character talking like me, that's where it came in handy when I realized the one character sounds a lot like my mom. I can imagine her saying these things and it comes out more easily.

Amy Sue Nathan said...

When I start writing a character I hear his or her voice in my head. Sometimes I think they speak like someone I know, so I try to imagine if that person would say what I'm writing. The character might differ greatly form the real life person, but I try to make sure the speech pattern matches and the words makes sense with it.

I know someone who finishes my last words of every sentence with me. Not a soul mate, mind you, a casual friend. It must be a habit of hers and there is no way around it. It makes me not want to talk to her -- and I like her. I have not figured out how to work that into a story, and I really want to.

Robin said...

I definitely say "like" and "you know" too much, but if Adam points it out, I'm literally tongue tied. Those words must stimulate my speech centers.

Melanie Avila said...

Amy, that's a good way of explaining what I meant -- I try to imagine what they would say.

What your friend does would be really annoying. I'm sure she thinks it's cute or clever and shows how "close" you are.

Melanie Avila said...

Robin, I say "you know" a lot and Ibis calls me out on it a lot. I find there are a lot more pauses in my speech without them, but half the time it's all I can do just to HEAR them, it's so automatic for me.

Janna Qualman said...

Not consciously, but my current MC speaks like my inner voice does. And the other characters (for the most part) have different expressions or words or what have you. It's been fun! And natural, surprisingly, with this work.

gypsyscarlett said...

I've never based a character's speech pattern on someone I know- at least not consciously. But that's something for me to remember if I get stuck one day! Good idea.

And heh- glad to know I'm not the only one who scribbles down: "need to write". And yes, I've also forgotten about them!

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, I'm glad this one is flowing so much better for you.

I have to be careful or all my characters will talk like I think, lol. Even the guys.

Melanie Avila said...

Gypsy, what's funny about the "need to write" note is do I really think I won't notice that the chapter doesn't exist if I DON'T say that? lol. I'm glad other people do that too!