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Friday, April 18, 2014

Who’s "Voice" Do You hear When You Read A Shawn James Story?

I hear voices in my head. Well, character voices.

When I’m writing a story oftentimes characters talk to me. And each character has their own “Voice” when they speak.

Where do those “voices” in my head come from? Some come from my imagination. I hear a character speaking to me and then I just start writing them.

Colleen Anderson from The Thetas always sounds like Robin Givens when I write her prose and dialogue. I never intended for her to sound like that, but that’s how she speaks to me. And Cassandra Lee always sounds like a 1960’s actress. Again, I never intended for her to sound like that, but that’s how she speaks to me when I write her.

Other “voices I use come from actors. One of the things I learned how to do early on when I first started writing was to capture the “voice” of an actor by studying their speech patterns when I watched a movie or a TV show. Then I would take that speech pattern and turn it into prose and dialogue for my novels.

It would often make me smile when a reader would tell me Osiris from Isis sounded like Samuel L. Jackson or E’steem sounded just like Salli Richardson-Whitfield. That meant I got the “voice” right, that I effectively copied the speech patterns of the actors and turned it into prose and dialogue.

Sometimes a characters’ “voice” changes. When a character evolves, sometimes the original “voice” I was using no longer fits, and a new character “voice” is needed to fit who they are now.

I wound up changing Queen Isis’ “voice” starting in Isis: Trial of The Goddess. The original Angela Bassett “voice” I had her speaking in wasn’t telling the story of Trial. So I switched to a softer, gentler one telling the story.

And Marilyn Marie’s “voice” changed when I wrote her in Isis: All About The Goddess. Originally it was a bit of a sultry, mellow “voice” in the screenplay, All About Marilyn but in the Isis novelette, I started hearing actress Persia White’s “voice” as Marilyn’s when I was telling the story. And she started sounding more like a Cali surfer chick. Hence all the “dude” references.

Lately Isis has been sounding like Cree Summer in some stories and Tia Mowry in others. Her speech pattern and personality are the same but as her character has been changing in the Isis series stories, I’ve been hearing different “voices” when I write her.

Of course who the reader hears when they read the story will be totally different than what I imagine when I’m writing it. When I write stories, I see scenes playing in my head like a movie. And I try to have the characters describe the action just like it’s playing in my head in their own “Voices”.

In some ways when I’m writing, I’m like an actor playing all the parts of a movie. Each character becomes their own person, and I have to feel all their emotions to convey them to paper. To make the story come alive. To get the reader to hear the “voices” of the characters so the story feels real.

These are some of the “voices I hear when I’m writing. Who’s voice do you hear when you read a Shawn James story?

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