Friday’s Findings: Doing Voice Journals

This week I’ve been doing voice journals for my characters as I reach the midpoint of Camp NaNoWriMo. I first read about this practice in James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers. This week I’ve read a few online articles on the subject. I’ve capsulated the main concepts of doing voice journals for characters here:

  • The Voice Journal is a technique to discover a character’s voice.
  • They are written in stream of consciousness format.
  • They should be done the moment when the character starts talking to you in a voice you did not plan.
  • Characters shouldn’t sound the same when they speak, and the Voice Journal helps you avoid that condition.
  • Prioritize quantity over quality when making a voice journal entry.
  • Don’t try to do a character’s voice journal all in one sitting.
  • Create an entry for a character using ten-minute chunks. Come back later and do another one. And another. And so on.
  • One time-tested technique for practicing dialogue is improvisation.
  • Watch TV with the sound off, and do the voices of the characters. Commercials are a great place to start.
  • Pull from a list of character archetypes (such as “geek”, “mad scientist”, “farmer”, etc.) and improvise in that chosen voice.
  • Ask the character questions and have the character answer them.
  • Or you can let a character talk about their lives and what brought them to where they are now.
  • Creating voice journals can lead to sharper dialogue.
  • Using voice journals may help you discover hidden motives behind your character’s behaviors.
  • A voice journal can help prevent all your characters from sounding like you, the writer.
  • A voice journal can also help prevent the “voiceless voice,” which is a dispassionate narrator telling a story from an emotional distance.

Check out Bell’s book, The Art of War for Writers for some great examples of voice journal entries.

Photo by SHVETS production

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