The Art of Voice Changery, Part 2

Middler's Pride (1)In my previous post on voice changery, I spoke of finding the right book with a character to inspire the voice of your hero. This isn’t to say you’re trying to build a carbon copy of a character you really liked in another book—hardly that. Rather, it’s all about discovering the unique rhythms, quirks, and language of your hero’s speech. I’ve got four different female heroes to write about in my series, and sure as Hades don’t want them all to sound the same. Wynne, key protagonist in my current WIP Beauty’s Price, is inspired by Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Austen tells Elizabeth’s story with a sweet–and some well-timed sassy–lyrical prose. The rhythm and melody rise and fall and rise again, just as the heart of Elizabeth as it slowly wakens itself to love another. This sort of sweet, lyrical connection between style and emotion is just what I want for Wynne.

But reading the words of another isn’t enough for me. I’ve often talked about the importance of music in helping me write. I needed to find a theme for Wynne, one that would help me see her part of life in Idana and get into her head.

First, her life at home. I remembered dedicating several pages to Meredydd’s manor and the woods surrounding it. Wynne would need something similar…sort of. Her father is a trader, so they won’t have their own manor to run. They’ll live in a trading town…one along a river…

The Dells of the Wisconsin River

The Dells of the Wisconsin River – unique sandstone formations that occur only in a couple places in the world.

Now Wisconsin is rich in waterways, many of them hidden by bluffs and valleys. I see…something. I see Wynne on a hillside, looking down upon the river, wide and strong by her town, wide enough for two lanes of barges, following and fighting the current. I see a collection of wooden buildings, enough to warrant some streets. I see the watermill to the north to help those who farmed, and a tannery at the south, wreaking havoc on the land around it with all its filth and toxins.

And I see Wynne really, really hating that.

I have a few photos of Wisconsin like this, but a bit too industrial for my liking:


La Crosse


Port of Green Bay

I need a visual of something on a smaller scale. But you saw my town; even those built around the river have long since stopped treating the river as anything other than a pretty touch to the town’s atmosphere. Oh, look, a charming river with a charming bridge. And there’s some charming families catching fish for fun, how all so very charming.

4a24c1593c13ced51058f9512617b540So I need to think of a town dependent upon its river. Considering the early Medieval style of everything, I have only one frame of context from which I can easily draw: Ellis Peters’ Cadfael mysteries. (Like it’d be anything but murder mysteries.)

Not my usual dose of photography, but I knew an episode or two would help me see people interact within a medieval town. Too often we’ve romanticized life of that period (something the amazing Terry Jones discusses in Medieval Lives, a series both hilarious and instructive), and I wanted something not afraid of dirt. The splintering planks upon the homes. Various piles of horse dung in the road. Chickens with curious escaping skills. Few windows. Few rooms. Few extras in life. Fences, though, those would be useful.

Forms were taking shape. Time for some color and life:

kingdom of heaven recording frontsmall.jpg

Time for music.

So far I had been digging through scores of period movies, such as Harry Gregson-Williams’ Kingdom of Heaven. It’s on this score where I found the music that embodied the busy trading center of Wynne’s town:

The reeds are soft with summer, and the river sings when the sun shines upon her. Listen with me. Does not the water over stones make you think of lyre strings? I like to sit here, where the tannery does not hurt the water so. The goddess has been kind so far, but I have no doubt a day will come when she finds herself too sickened by the town’s industry, and we will all wake to find our river gone. Never underestimate a goddess—or any girl, I think—of strong mind.

North of town, the water dances like my feet. When the sun warms skin, when the bees feast among the blossoms, when the fish leap from water for dragonflies, I am able to forget the grime and odors of town, and turn to kinder, better things.

My father is due to arrive with a caravan today, and my mother has stressed all daughters must be present for his arrival. Will you walk with me, at least to town? It is but a few rolling hills away.

I am thankful for these fertile slopes. The river’s happy waters grow stronger crops here. Take care with your feet lest you find yourself trampling a seedling or droppings. I do not like to task the farmers. Visiting caravans are rarely kind to them, and never face punishment for gleaning. Step this way, please, to the oxen-path. The river flows as falling stars before the town, yet we send it off soiled and used. Abused, I should say, but a merchant’s daughter is not allowed such thoughts. Trade is life, and industry is trade. At least the tannery is there, a short ways south of town, so the water is not so terrible until the town’s end. The mill for carrying water to the fields is at the northernmost, see it? Rather hidden by the trees, I know, but if you ignore the farmer yelling at the mule, you can just hear the clack-clack of the buckets tipping.

This town is neither manor nor city. There is a street of homes, true, and it connects to the hostel street, which turns there, sharply, for the ancestral shrine, annoying river and land caravans alike. We  must have good pasture for livestock, a stretch of sand for small boats and long docks for bigger barges. Our high street is dedicated to eateries and hostels. We are a perpetual hayloft for travelers, with our own wares barely noticed. Perhaps that is best. Those attracted to our town are not the sort I care to think about.

Mind our rock fences–they are rather low, I’m afraid, just enough to scrape one’s ankle terribly if not careful. Turn here. Market street may look wide enough for a joust, but that is only because the selling carts have left for the day. They sit in the middle, and the shops remove their shelf-shutters, and this place soon overflows with traveling caravans, farmer’s wares, the tannery’s wares, and tinkers. Even artisans from villages nearby will come once a month before midday to set up near the edge of market for the sake of shadow from the sun.

Why do you look at me like that? I have lived here long enough to see a pattern, that is all.

Ah, here we are. Yes, the house with the wooden fence at waist height. Can’t afford to block the view of potential suitors. Just as an artisan proudly displays his wares, my mother makes an exhibition of her children for potential wooing. We’re quite the collection, my sisters and I.

While Wynne grew up in the town, readers are new to this corner of Idana. I needed that flavor of town life, which was only barely tasted in Middler’s Pride. The rhythms would be familiar to Wynne, its melodies bittersweet. After all, she was never allowed to befriend anyone in the town. She witnesses life happening, but can only interact with it as a bird in a cage.

This sense of isolation, love, and desperation reminded me of Anne Dudley’s score to Tristan and Isolde. I’ve used this score before, but I’d never felt it bond with a story so well as with this one. The story of lovers kept apart vibrates in the strings as the piano keys slowly dance round a hope, the smallest hope that refuses to leave the heart.

Wynne’s heart never loses hope, or love, no matter the confinement or pressure put upon her. I need to continue exploring music to find her spirit (and perhaps the spirit of her antagonist, too), but capturing her heart’s song has helped me discover more of her voice: the hope that fills it, the sadness that trails it.

Find the heart’s song of your hero, and watch her deepest passions resonate with the setting, other characters, and most importantly, your readers.

37 thoughts on “The Art of Voice Changery, Part 2

  1. The is little to add or indeed disagree with, such is your expertise in clinical, yet thoroughly enjoyable analysis of the subject matter. I find it fascinating how your mind works…a gift for recognizing any paradox in the tale, or the necessities character development as the tale evolves. Nice one, Ms Lee

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s funny, ‘hearing’ your voice in the writing, linked to a completely different character’s voice- that’s not an easy thing to do, friend! Wynne sounds interesting, smart, and NOT AT ALL what Gwen thought her in the last. I can’t wait to see where this all goes…!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh thank you! I admit that I’ve been floundering for weeks. Yeah, running around for the friend’s wedding was nice, happy to see people, yay people, but UGH NO WRITING TIME! NEEEEEEEED WRITING TIME! So my brain was just utterly flunking on this until basically today, when I got some ideas for the rest of my character sketches. At last, I think Wynne’s back on track!


      • Uf! Hopefully things slow down and you get writing time! For you, and selfishly for me, since I can’t wait to see what she gets into 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks! I think this weekend finally grants that. I made Bo promise I’ll get four hours of out-of-house writing time this weekend. Here’s hoping that happens…


  3. Wow, I’ve just read both posts and they have my simple brain spinning. I might not have grasped what you’re saying/asking 100% correctly so I’ll apologise upfront.

    Referring to the first part of your post, the changing voice of Wynne, I really can’t be of help but find your thought process fascinating. You’re obviously one clever cookie and skilled at what you do so I’m sure you’ll nail it.

    The next part, are you looking for further visual aids in the form of art/photos/film clips etc to help you mentally create a hometown for Wynne or is the clip you shared your chosen look?

    The music is beautiful by the way.

    Most of my writing is for a select audience and not published on WP but like you, I do use music to create characters and the atmosphere for my work. It reflects how I’m feeling and what I’m trying to express in a piece. I think you got it right with your chosen auditory aid.

    As you can see from the few bits I do post, I’m no writer but I appreciate an artist at work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so very much for the comments! Yeah, I, erm, have a wacky process, I know, but it’s been working so far, so I guess I’m sticking with it for the time being. 😉

      Hey, you’re a writer, too. Anyone with the guts to pull the words out of the mind and put them onto the page is a writer. It doesn’t matter if the words are seen by another soul or not–that initial pulling, that dare to bring secret dreams and fears out from the safe coverings of our skin–that act still scares the shit out of me every time. Seriously. I still remember that first time doing NaNoWriMo, and daring to write a story that had been dancing round in my head for years. There were times when I was literally shaking as I wrote.

      So you’re a writer, I’d say. Definitely. xxxxxxxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As ever, I love your generosity in allowing the rest of us nosy parkers into your creative process as you construct your character voice and rhythms. The music is a delight, by the way – and I also endorse the suggestion of Dartmouth – Devon is tucked away in the south-westerly corner of England, largely rural and often overlooked by tourists in favour of its showier, more flamboyant neighbouring sister, Cornwall. But it has a lush charm all of its own and Wynne’s speech isn’t a million miles away from some of the cadences of the West Country brogue. Thank you for sharing and I hope you get those writing hours…

    Liked by 1 person

    • You and me both, Sister! 😉 So long as the in-laws don’t intrude, Bo’s promised me those hours, and by God, I’ll make him keep it.
      Thank you for the suggestion of Devon, too! I feel like I need to make this itinerary for the day I get to come back over the Atlantic. 😉 And I need to do some road-tripping around here, too! I know Wisconsin’s got some kinder, smaller towns that could suit very well, too, if I could ever get a road-trip away from the kids. Door County, for one, is absolutely GORGEOUS. It’s also stricken with tourists. I wish I could get back up there, but that used to be a family thing, and we’ve not gone there since Dad died.
      When I get the courage, we’ll return there. Someday.
      And thanks for reading, as always, Dear One. xxxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for the link – I can see why you love it so much… What a beautiful corner of the planet. As for tourists – that is one thing about the UK – it’s generally heaving, but then in places (especially down south where we live) it’s very, very crowded…
        Best of luck with the writing, Jean:))

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks! Bo insisted I take my two hours to write, even when his family decided to show up for lunch. I got some nasty looks from the matriarch that singed me, but otherwise, I’m still standing. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • And you know, I think that’s one thing I like about Wisconsin–the tourism’s pretty concentrated. Wisconsin Dells (America’s Largest Waterpark, blah blah) has those amazing rock formations in the Wisconsin river, but it’s been SO built up with parks, hotels, casinos, etc. that I can’t imagine taking the kids there any time soon. The Dells and other North Woods spots are very popular with other Midwesterners for fishing and camping. People from Illinois, especially, are ALWAYS driving up. (In terms of landscape, Illinois is dreadfully dull, for the record. Seriously, flat as a pancake.) Then you get autumn, when lots of people come here to watch leaves change color, and then BAM–nothing. The place empties like a sieve. Unless you hunt deer or drive snowmobiles, Wisconsin’s apparently the last place anyone wants to be in the cold months. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes – the one thing we don’t have too much of on this small island – free space… Interesting that folks don’t want to visit in the cold weather, given you can apparently see the northern lights there…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Disclaimer: I’m in a rather goofy mood this morning, despite only having imbibed 2 tiny cups of weak coffee. I’ll need much, much more to feel human! ☕️

    Anyway, this is what Lucy and I are listening to right now & I wondered if you might find it inspiring when you write, particularly if pets are involved in the scenes…. 👀 😜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooooooooooo, this IS soothing! Dogs get so much good stuff. 🙂
      Except for coffee…which I haven’t had much of today, either. I was a terrible neighbor and turned on the air pump for a minute to finish inflating the kid’s pool. It’s going to be beastly all week, but today Bo’s home, so it’ll be easier managing the three of them with water.
      This sounds like perfect doggie daydream music, SpyDy! I think sometimes we just need the white sounds, you know? That’s what this makes me think of. Nothing intense or…how to put it…making itself known. This is rather like ocean waves, just ebbing and flowing in its natural rhythm. Lovely find, Lovely Lady of the Bean! xxxxxxxxxx

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  7. I do admire your thinking process and cannot offer any sound advice – though I feel very much that you know what you’re doing. I got pleasantly distracted by an old childhood/teen friend, Jackie D who plays the mistress talking to Cadfael. 1997 was when I had my first child and never, ever got the chance to watch telly ever again (hehe! You know what I mean) and have never watched Cadfael though aware of its popularity. She was always modest about the work she got after leaving RADA. It was a treat to see that. To be honest, I have always had a soft spot for medieval drama. Looks good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow! I’ll have to watch that scene again. Yes, that is exactly why I don’t even try to keep up with any sort of show or movie series. Who has time to *watch* things when there’s reading and writing to do?
      It’s been an age since I got to sit and watch a well-done drama, actually, but I’m hoping to rectify that this fall with a trip to an outdoor theater for some Shakespeare. Not quite medieval drama, but I’ll take it. :)xxxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

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  10. The river in York now has three purposes now – look pretty – allow the tourist boat trips – hold the annual dragon boat race. Yet it wasn’t always like this. At home we have a couple of old prints which show the river 300 years ago. Then it was everything, the heart beat of the city.

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