writer’s voice

When Characters Talk To You

How alive are your characters for you? Do you have conversations with them? Do they tell you what they want to do in a story, even if it’s not something you had in mind for them?

Do you hear your characters when they talk?

I recently read an article that talked about how many authors in fact do hear their characters speak to them. According to researchers at Durham University who teamed up with the Guardian and the Edinburgh international book festival, sixty-three per cent [of respondents] said they heard their characters speak while writing, with 61% reporting characters were capable of acting independently.”181 authors were interviewed.

This finding was of great interest to me since I hear my characters voices when they talk to me. Some are quiet while others are quite loud. As my readers know, I write sexy retellings of fairy tales. Tita, my Puss In Boots in my novella “Trouble In Thigh High Boots” has a deep, sonorous voice. She purrs. Obviously, she does. She’s a cat shifter. Rapunzel in my novella “Climbing Her Tower” has a higher, wispier voice. She also speaks quicker than Tita. Both of these characters have told me when they were unhappy with the direction of a plot. They also told me what turns them on the most so I could give them the best experiences. These two are very open, honest, and straightforward – qualities I admire.

I asked writers on Facebook their experiences with their characters voices. Everyone’s experience is different, but all have a camaraderie with their characters. Some fight. Some don’t. Some take the plot in a direction the author had not originally considered. Some play the “You should be writing” card. Here are a few responses.

Christiane Knight – “Mine talk to me and occasionally have taken the plot in very different directions than I’d planned.”

Terri Bruce – “LOL – I not only hear them, but it’s kind of like they take me over at times. I’ll be in the shower or driving and realize suddenly that I’m talking OUT LOUD, saying the dialog I’m picturing in my head (the scene starts playing like a little movie in my head but it’s always in first person – I’m the characters (lol all of them) in the scene/seeing the scene from their POV – rather than third person). My husband often catches me doing this (it’s happened in a restaurant while sitting across from him a few times) and he’s like “um, honey, your lips are moving. You’re talking to yourself. What is happening?????” LOLOLOL!”

Phoenix Johnson – “Some of mine are total arseholes lol they try to fight me, can be exhausting!”

Colleen Markley – “My protagonist is sitting on my newly cleaned counter now, swinging her feet against the cabinet. Her heels bang the wood. “You need to stop playing house and get serious,” she tells me. “You can’t finish a novel if you’re not serious. You’re just shy of 90,000 words and you still need to finish act two. Your pacing is off and you need to fix it.” She pauses her feet and stops speaking for a moment as she looks at me. “You’re so close.”

Jenise Aminoff – “My characters all have distinct voices, and some of them ARGUE with me.”

Jacques Gerard – ” Yes, I do hear my character’s voices and would love to be included in your blog. I just finished an erotic short story. It has a lady DJ doing a podcast. Her voice is low and velvety. Her male lover who calls into her show has a deep baritone voice and sounds like Barry White.”

So writers, do your characters talk to you? Boss you around? Plead with you? If so, know you’re not alone.


Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her two cats. Her LGBTQ paranormal erotic shifter romance novel “Full Moon Fever” is now available for purchase at Amazon and other book distributors. Her collection of erotic fairy tales, “Happily Ever After: Twisted Versions of Your Favorite Fairy Tales”, is also available at Amazon.

Web site: http://elizabethablack.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ElizabethABlack

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethblack

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Finding Your Writer’s Voice

by Kathleen Bradean

I think I found my writer’s voice years ago when we were in Taccoa visiting relatives. Seeing relatives is real easy in Taccoa as I’m blood kin to at least twenty percent of the population. It’s a small town; my mother had sixty-four cousins; you do the math.

Oh, she didn’t have sixty-four living cousins. There were only about twenty-eight of them. Living cousins, that is. A few got killt off in road accidents and that type of stuff. Many of the sixty-four didn’t make it to their first birthday. Then there were the diphtheria and cholera years where whole branches of the family tree got pruned off in the course of a week, sort of like when a tornado goes through town and tears away tree limbs and sends them flying through your window or shattering your home and all you can do the next day is stare numbly at the damage until your eyes get itchy from tears. Then you drag the back of your hand across you runny nose and go on living because what else are you gonna do?

I only know about all the cousins that passed because there’s a book that lists everyone in the family since we came over from England. One time I was real bored because it was my turn to be the person my sisters hated and they’d sneaked off to the creek without me. I knew where they were but the rules of that particularly nasty game were that you had to suck it up and take it so I had to make do until they forgave me for whatever sin they’d decided I’d committed. Seeing as Toccoa is surrounded by the southernmost crest of the Smoky Mountains and this was years before satellite, Grandma’s TV only got snowy pictures and ghosts followed the actors. Besides, my grandparents belonged to the cult of ‘go play outside’ so after a long sigh and an eye roll that nearly got me in big trouble, I took the book out on the back steps and balanced it on my bony knees while I flipped to the page where my mother’s name was listed, and my sisters and me with her, and that’s how I found out about all those dead cousins. I counted them, even the babies who only lived a day. Then I crawled under the house to play with the barn cat’s kittens.

My elusive writer’s voice wasn’t under the house with them.

We were driving around town– We must have been on our way to church. Grandma was wearing those white cotton gloves and I had on a dress which was a miracle in and of itself– and Grandma said “Mister L” — isn’t it funny how they called each other Mister L and Missus L instead of using their first names? Maybe because they flat out hated each other. Anyway, Grandma said, “Stop the car. I want to show the children this house.” It was a big old dark green thing with a mansard roof that had seen better centuries. We said we could see the house fine from the car, but she insisted.

Grandpa didn’t need to stop really. He always drove so slow we could have popped open the doors and stepped out like it was one of those carnival rides on a continuous belt, but he pulled off the road, which probably brought considerable relief to that blue Chevy that had been dogging Grandpa’s back bumper since we passed the county high school.

The cicadas were buzzing like mad in towering, pale green trees behind the house. Gravel got in my shoe as we walked down the drive so I hopped on one foot while I dumped it out. Grandma stepped onto the porch and knocked on the door. When no one answered, my sisters and I shuffled toward the car, not in any hurry to get back in because Grandma and Grandpa had been bickering all morning about whether we’d go to the Methodist church (his) or the Baptist (hers) and we would have been glad to miss both. So when she called us over and tolt us to look through the windows so we could see the inside of the place, we climbed up on the porch with her. I cupped my hands around my eyes and looked into the parlor. Some guy was asleep on a couch in his t-shirt and I could hear a game on a television I couldn’t see. I tugged on Grandma’s sleeve and whispered frantically to her to move away from the window. Maybe I only thought I was was whispering because the man sat up suddenly. We yelped and lit out for Grandpa’s car, but Grandma just stood there on the porch peering in like she never heard of a shotgun before. The door yanked open and the guy’s hair, which was sticking up like he’d licked a light socket, I swear reached the top of the door frame. He stared at us sleep stupefied for a good moment. My sisters and I held hands and our breaths.

Turns out he was a cousin.

One of the living, of course. We may be southern but we aren’t gothic.


Maybe you wonder how you develop your writers voice and maybe you don’t. I went looking for it but got sidetracked and haven’t bothered since. Supposedly, that’s what an MFA program does for you. But I’m convinced that focuses on the wrong thing. If the story is first person, it has to be written in the character’s voice, not the writer’s. Otherwise, the writer is intruding.

I didn’t find my writer’s voice in Toccoa, but I can make it sound as if this narrator is me. It’s channeling the way a story would be told by that narrator. It’s cadence and vocabulary. It’s judiciously ignoring grammar in favor of voice. I wouldn’t suggest writing dialectics as a rule since they are often annoying, but those three words inform the reader about the narrator in ways that the rest of the text can’t, so I did it anyway.

If you’re a writer, you may have voices in your head. Let them speak on the page. Don’t worry about your voice, because unless you consciously steer your writing to a different one, yours will shine through.


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