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Speech "tagging" through voice.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Svrtnsse, Oct 27, 2013.

  1. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Ahoy,

    What are your thoughts on letting a character's voice be the main indicator that it's them speaking?

    Example:
    My character Rolf, likes to use the phrase "my friend" when addressing or referring to other people and he does it a lot. He's also referring to his children as "my dear" or "my boy", his brother as "my brother" and his wife as "my love". This is something that he does a lot and consistently and none of the other characters in the story uses it.
    My theory is that eventually the reader will get used to this way of speaking and they will automatically associate speech including these words with the character.
    Does this make sense, does it work and what is your experience with it if you've tried it or encountered it?


    I'm aware that this kind of behavior can get a bit annoying. The idea is based on the speech of a former colleague of mine who used to talk like this and he did get on my nerves with it now and then. He was a nice guy though and he did it in a friendly and good natured way so I figured I'd try to copy it.
     
  2. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    It's been done before, and by some popular authors.

    One example: David Eddings, in his Elenium and Tamuli trilogies, has the main POV character calling strangers "neighbor" all the time. One of the other characters asks him why at one point, which leads to just enough explanation (he picked it up from his father, he doesn't use "friend" because he's not sure if they're really friendly or not) to satisfy the reader that there's a reason behind it.
     
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  3. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I'd say that would indicate I'm not completely fumbling in the fog here. It's ages since I read those books myself and don't remember that part. How did you feel it worked when reading it? Did you associate it with the character even when it wasn't explicitly spelled out that it was them talking?


    For reference, in case someone is unclear on what I'm on about, here are some of Rolf's lines as an example:
     
  4. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    I thought it made it easier to tell when Sparhawk (the character in question) was speaking, yes.
     
  5. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    Word choice is definitely a character indicator. It not only sets characters apart but it also tells something about the character themselves. For example your character, with your examples, sounds very mannered and polite, well brought up and loving. Someone who instead addresses their son as "boy" or "kid" or even "punk" will send a different personality drawing to the reader.
     
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  6. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    This is classic characterization. What would Sam be like without saying "Mister Frodo" right to the fellow's face while they're fighting for their lives? let alone you-know-who's "My precioussss" and other fun things. There are all kinds of phrases you might use for this, but it's most efficient to start with ones that refer to other people, or necessary moments like greetings or curses.

    Or you can set up deliberate moments like
    It goes beyond pet words too. Who likes to interrupt? who's just more fancy, or who just uses fewer words, with an Eastwood clipped sound? Dialog subtlety's way better than faces or gestures for describing a person, if you give it some thought.

    (As for making it the "main indicator" of who's who-- I'd say, write dialog almost as if you were forbidden to use speech tags, to try to distinguish people through the content itself. Then for bleep's sake tag things anyway; never assume.)
     
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  7. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    /facepalm

    Can't believe I missed that one. Thanks for pointing it out. :)

    Edit:
    This is a good point too. Beired - Rolf's wife, isn't very talkative and uses very short sentences. I don't think I've put that through well enough for it to be reliable as an indicator, but it's definitely there.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013
  8. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    You should not make fun of the preciousssss... ;)
     
  9. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Current trends are to include tags and beats regardless. That's not to say that you can't buck a trend, but readers do tend to have certain expectations.
     
  10. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Wouldn't dream of it. Although, a friend once mused what it would be like to have a wedding with "Frodo, do you take this woman..." and I said, "Isn't the next line 'Do you have the ring?'"
     
  11. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    :Tongue:

    You should try the nightclub circuit.
     
  12. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    The "five by five" thing in Buffy was so well done - the audience knows it's Faith in Buffy's body and so the five by five is a reminder of that and a sinister one at that; but to Willow, it just sounds like Buffy is imitating Faith presumably out of relief that Faith is now out of the picture.

    The thing with Buffy too is that many lines from the show, if seen written and unattributed, you can guess who said them with a high degree of accuracy because of the language and the syntax. Each line is written for the character and wouldn't work for anyone else saying them.
     
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