26 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

Great. Just fabulous. I mean, really. What the hell, why didn’t we just have everyone watch us going at it? It would have been a great show. Watch the f** try to f*** the desperate whore. Who knows what could happen?!

One of the few good things about working on the same novel for over five years is that at this point, I have the voice down. It is done, it's developed, it's perfect in my mind. It certainly may not be everyone's cup of tea ("Who has tea??" Jordan says. "You made tea and didn't make me a cup?!"), but neither is the whole book. For this book, and for this character in particular, the voice works.

Voice is a tricky thing. What you need can depend on a lot of things. Each character should have his/her own distinct voice when they speak, but that doesn't necessarily come up on every page. Your narrator's voice does, though. And if the book is in first person, you're actually writing from a character's point of view. As you read, you're experiencing everything through his eyes and his words. You want it to sound like a real person is telling the story. That's where voice comes in.

Everyone has a certain way of speaking. Your narrator's voice should be distinct from the other characters in the book. We should actually believe that this person would use these words to tell the story. When I first started writing UL, it did not sound like a teenage boy was telling the story. It sounded like a twentysomething girl was, well, because that's who was writing it. Voice doesn't always come to you right away. Sometimes just getting the story down first is more important. But developing a distinct voice for your narrator will not only make the story believable, but hopefully more enjoyable.

Honestly, the first thing I did to develop Jordan's voice was just to throw a lot of swears in. I figured that was a totally plausible thing for a teenager to be doing. I cut the big, lengthy words that he would never use and replaced them with more believable ones (like "bullsh**" for "pretense," that was a good one!). I didn't shy away from fragments. I added little phrases that I probably will need to cut down on in the third draft, like all the "I mean"s and "really"s and "I mean, really"s.

I guess the one thing I worry about is that some people won't like the voice. But I guess those are the same people who wouldn't like the book anyway. But some people are turned off by swears. I almost didn't include the end of the above quote until I realized that was kind of the point. If Jordan wasn't swearing all the time, it would probably seem weird. I know that limits my audience a bit, but I just think it's more believable, and it's something unique to his voice. There are other characters in the book who never swear, but he's definitely not one of them. So why would his narration be any different than his dialogue?

Figuring out the voice can depend on a lot of things. Who your character is, what point in his life he's telling his story from, or just how he speaks in general. It can take a long time to develop, but as long as the narrator has a unique voice, that will make the story come alive even more.

How do you develop a character's voice? Do you mind reading books with swears?


  1. Usually I have a pretty good sense of my character(s) before I start writing but sometimes the voice is just there, magically. I'm fine with swearing as long as it seems natural. Some of my characters swear, and some don't.

  2. I don't mind swearing in stories as long as it's not done just for the sake of it or just for shock value. Even if your character is someone who swears all the time, I don't know that he/she has to swear all the time on the page (if that makes sense.) The swear words might be able to be sprinkled throughout, like how some authors handle dialect, to give the flavor but not overdo it.

  3. Swearing doesn't bother me a f***ing bit. Oops. Well, the secret's out. I have severe potty-mouth, though I keep it under control until I stub my toe. Then, watch out.

    I started writing in first person several years ago at the suggestion of a person in my critique group and now I'm hooked. I don't know if I can even pull third person off anymore.

  4. I definitely don't mind reading a book with swears, and I certainly write them. But in writing, I try to make sure it fits the character and the situation because I don't want it to be for shock value or anything like that.

    But in life, it's like I have some kind of competition every day to see how many f-bombs I can drop.

  5. I don't mind reading a book that has swearing in it. Be weird of me to be mad about it since my own stories have swearing to varying levels.

  6. I don't mind swearing, but it can get to be too much for me at some point. When every line from every character is f this and f that, it starts to feel repetitive. I read one story where *every* character used the f-word and it disappointed me. I try not to swear (I have two young children), my co-workers don't swear at work, and for the most part, my husband has no reason to swear when we're at home. So to read a story where every character swears all the time just doesn't feel realistic to me.

    That being said, some of my characters do swear, but that comes down to voice. Certain characters prefer particular profanity uses. Some don't use it at all. It really depends on who they are.

  7. I would imagine you do have each character's voice down pat! As to the swearing, it doesn't bother me in a book as long as it's consistent with the character. Using swearing just to have some isn't a good idea but I know you know that.

  8. I don't mind swear words as long as it fits the character and story rather than just adding shock value. I remember when I first started writing, I had no idea what voice meant.

    Susan Says

  9. Until four years ago, the only writing I did was personal essay. I think "my voice" in writing is authentic.

    But writing fiction is an entirely different game. And developing a voice for each character, especially when those characters are significantly younger than myself (or my own children) I find the voice is either too old - too cardboard - or too forced.

    I keep working on it though :)

  10. I prefer books without swears but one book I loved that had some strong language was What Alice Forgot.

    Joy @ The Joyous Living

  11. I love developing the voice of my characters - it's part of getting to know them and be surprised by what they would and wouldn't say. Staying true to the character through voice is sometimes harder than staying true through actions ;-)

  12. Don't mind the swearing normally depends on how the story is done. My characters sometimes swear.
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit