{Author’s Corner} Diversifying Character Voice

What is character voice?  To me, it’s the distinctive way a character talks and thinks and moves, the way we know through dialogue alone who the character is without any speech tags to tell us.

When you write multiple works, how can you make sure they don’t all sound exactly the same?

This is actually tough, at least for me.  We all have a certain way we speak in a mish-mash of local phrases to go along with body language all our own.  It’s easy to write a character in your own “voice”.  Writing The Glass Man came out like breathing because I wrote as I would naturally speak.  Now, with my new series, the main character is nothing like me in manner or voice.

I’ve discovered a little technique while preparing for the Muskoka Novel Marathon, where I endeavor to write a novel in 3 days to raise money for adult literacy.  I needed a way to feel out my main characters before I started the novel, so could know who they were before the clock starts ticking and I begin the story.

It’s simply this.  Take your two main characters.  Put them in a public place, my favorite is the mall, and have them observe the crowd and interact with each other as they discuss what they see.  It always surprises me, the character traits that just sort of naturally appear.  A catch phrase that comes out.  What attracts them, repels them.  A prejudice, views on politics and religion, fashion choices, body language, it all comes out clearly.

No two characters have ever come out the same when I do this.  They all end up with their own little quirks, shortcomings and strengths.  They speak differently, use different terms of endearment, curses and humor.  It’s such a simple process, but it really works.

Try it out and let me know how it turns out.  Post me a little paragraph here so I can meet your creations.

Characters that linger – Jean Claude

Now that the excitement of my novel release has settled down somewhat and normal life is returning, I’d like to get back to my series of favorite characters.

Those who know me and my writing know I love a sexy villain.  Even better, is a villain-turned hero who is still flawed enough he continues to make mistakes and grows through the series.

My favorite of these, by a long mile, is Laurell K. Hamilton’s Jean Claude.  He isn’t a large man, nor a hulking, muscular beefcake–that’s not what attracts me to him.

He’s slender, has long, curly hair, stands 5’11”, wears lots of tight leather pants and old fashioned shirts with frilly lace cuffs. Oh yeah, and he’s a 600 year old French vampire/incubus.

Huh, you say?  How is that sexy?  It’s all in his manner.  He has sex appeal dripping from every pore, shown in everything he does from sitting on a sofa to walking across the room.  Jean Claude moves with the grace of a dancer.  The way Hamilton describes his smile and his body language gives me shivers every time he’s in the room with Anita Blake.

Even from book one (Guilty Pleasures) where he was still very much the villain, trying to seduce Anita every chance he got, I wanted him to succeed.  I wanted her to give in to his charm despite his being the bad guy.  The way he calls her Ma Petite.  His French accent.  The way he positions his body so she’ll notice, then laughs when he detects the reaction in her body.  Loved it.

Even when he does something untoward to Anita to further his political or personal agenda, he’s just so easy to forgive.  I mean, he almost gets her killed in Guilty Pleasures and in a sneaky way, binds her to him as his human servant, and I STILL forgave him.  So did Anita.  Eventually.

As the series rolls along, we learn more about why Jean Claude is the way he is.  He’s had a hard existence as a vampire.  No, not hard, that doesn’t cover it.  Torturous would be more accurate.

As an incubus, he needs to feed on sex, something his female master often teased him with, and denied him often just to amuse herself.  Even so, he stayed under her rule to save his best friend and former lover, Asher.  Hey, there’s a good guy left in him somewhere.  I knew it!

We also see his affection for Anita soften him, though we only catch glimpses of it through his relaxed outer demeanor.  Those little chinks in his armor only made those glimpses all the more sweet.  He loves her and we get to watch as he learns how to do it without pissing her off, which with Anita, is nearly impossible to do.

Hamilton kept me salivating for quite a few books until I finally ate up the scene I’d been waiting for, when Anita finally gets naked with Jean Claude.  So much more satisfying than if she’d chosen Richard, the moody werewolf.

Jean Claude is definitely one of those deliciously complex characters that will stick with me forever.

For anyone who loves a gritty, flawed heroine, multiple sexy men, and unique story lines that wander into the realm of taboo, the Anita Blake series is for you.

Do you have a favorite villain-turned hero?

Characters that linger: Odd Thomas

I’ve read one or two of Koontz’s books before this one.  They were okay, well written, but the subjects typically didn’t really fall into my zone of interest.  When my husband recommended I read Odd Thomas because he loved the main character, I balked at first.  It wasn’t in the romance genre that I could tell from the back cover.  There were no vampires or shifters.  What would I find to like about this book?

Before I’d finished the first page, I understood the draw to this story.  Odd Thomas is one of those characters that immediately made me like him, pull for him and flip pages madly to find out how his story would end.

The blurb is lengthy, so I won’t post it here.  If you’d like to read it, click here.

Odd Thomas is a lowly fry cook and proud of it.  He also sees dead people, though they don’t speak to him.  Through some supernatural talent, he somehow understands them, helps them make peace with their deaths, and sometimes they help him save the world.  He lives above someone’s garage, where his only companion is a cardboard cutout of Elvis.

The first thing that struck me about Odd was that he takes everything in stride.  His unusual name (which has a great story attached to it, btw), his gift, the dreams, and the fact that his neighbor asks him to come and see her every morning to ensure the old woman she didn’t disappear the night before.  It’s all normal to him, and as he’s telling his story, I came to think of it as normal, too.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the book.  They pretty much sum up Odd Thomas:

My name is Odd Thomas, though in this age when fame is the altar at which most people worship, I am not sure why you should care who I am or that I exist.  I am not a celebrity.  I am not the child of a celebrity.  I have never been married to, never been abused by, and never provided a kidney for transplantation into any celebrity.  Furthermore, I have no desire to be a celebrity.

In fact I am such a nonentity by the standards of our culture that People magazine not only will never feature a piece about me but might also reject my attempts to subscribe to their publication on the grounds that the black hole gravity of my noncelebrity is powerful enough to suck their entire enterprise into oblivion.

Another of the traits I love about Odd Thomas is the fierceness with which he loves his girlfriend, Stormy Llewellyn.

Stormy Llewellyn and I are more than friends.  We believe that we are soul mates.  For one thing, we have a card from a carnival fortune-telling machine that says we’re destined to be together forever.  We also have matching birthmarks. 

Card and birthmarks aside, I love her intensely.  I would throw myself off a high cliff for her if she asked me to jump.  I would, of course, need to understand the reasoning behind her request. 

Fortunately for me, Stormy is not the kind of person to ask such a thing lightly.  She expects nothing of others that she herself would not do.  In treacherous currents, she is kept steady by a moral anchor the size of a ship.

Although Odd takes everything in stride, he still feels deeply and made me feel it right along with him.  He’s real to me.  His story made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time.  Although I read the book several years ago, I still think about Odd now and then.  If you like quirky characters with unique voices, you will love this book.

Who is your favorite character of all time?

To celebrate the upcoming release of my debut novel, I’m giving away a signed paperback.  Click below to enter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Glass Man by Jocelyn Adams

The Glass Man

by Jocelyn Adams

Giveaway ends October 15, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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