Craft Notes: On voice and tropes.

Okay, first I need y’all to read this and listen to this interview with Idris Elba about playing Stringer Bell. 

Next listen to a couple of minutes of this show from the 90s about horror and in particular the woman who voiced the devil in the Exorcist.

Tuck in, it’s gettin nerdy up in here today.

Now in the Elba interview (goddamn he is just…goddamn) listening to how he talks about how the characters he plays command him, are his new therapists. He says something about the warlord character he plays and he uses the phrase “voice texture”. I heard this interview weeks ago and that phrase has been stuck in my head.

Also, this quote touched me:

“There were so many dark issues explored with my character that I just thought, ‘Can I really pull it across? Can I pull it off?’ ” he said. “I’ve got children. I felt very uncomfortable with being associated with a film that had a character like that. But I realize that my purpose in this world as an artist is to leave an impression.”

If you’ve read a lot of my work you already know I have a thing for the texture of a voice. Whiskey, velvet, promises of sex and death in the tone and timbre of a voice. I am very audibly sensitive to tones, timbre, intent etc in voices and a lot of that fuels my writing. This idea of not only voice in the context of my voice as an author, but voice as in the voice of a character and the feel of that voice is something I love to dig into and play with.

I have mentioned before that I feel like one of my personal abilities *also see things I just love to play with* is making a world or story more intimate. Close. What’s closer than a voice against your skin or ear?

I mention skin because not  everyone can hear a voice in their ear right? We know that but, we know or can imagine what silk feels like, or an emory board.

Another reason I linked these two things are to give you a peek at how other mediums/modes of art inspire me.

I love listening to actors, Foley artists, voice actors etc talk about how they arrive at The Voice or The Sound. There is a certain level of resonance I feel with that. I spend a lot of time in my fiction looking for that moment. The Voice. Sometimes it is literal and I write a few lines and listen to different people speak until The Voice happens or The Sound happens and I’m off to the races.

There are times when this leads to a different POV or at times a whole new story. A lot of this work happens outside of the actual ass in chair part of writing. Often I have one or two lines from any given story I’m working on playing in my head in different tones and voices until it happens.

Currently I’m working on a horror (used loosely) story I’ve been playing with forever. It is a passion story that I originally wrote in a more classic horror possession thing (read the TV tropes thing about demonic possession here) as told by the demon. Then I rewrote it in third person and started over again with a tight first (plural..I’ll explain in a minute) person from the POV of the girl who is possessed.

Now, as I toyed with the passion thing, and how to get a satisfying narrative out of it. I tried researching Judeo Christian demons and coming at it from a this is X demon and this is their, uh.. qualities (?) and telling the story that way. That didn’t satisfy. I toyed with making it some kind of weird auto erotic situation which didn’t pan out.

Ultimately, what I settled on was creating a plural first person POV of Lola and Sam living and using one body with two voices. I spent a lot of time using specifically non gendered language, and using both and We as the central pronouns through the story. This bit is a good example of how I did that:

I panicked and held tight to Sam and we hurled that old bastard off of us, wailing that we would not be torn apart. We waged war for seven days and nights.  We broke one of the priest’s legs, the young one had impure thoughts when we spread our legs and offered him sweet, young virgin pussy.

I worked really hard to go from both the genesis of this relationship with a kind of resolution in under 2k words which has been difficult. I wanted to have very distinct time periods demonstrated by both the evolution of the singular I to the plural I/We and go from Sam and Lola meeting, to being exorcised to living.

I’m in the editing stage and I want to make it a bit more sparingly. I’m working on getting it leaner and more uncomfortable. I want a reader who expects the tragedy of the innocent young girl being possessed and then gaining redemption to be frustrated and made uncomfortable.

Again, this is probably why I have such a hard time in genre markets. But when I write horror, I don’t necessarily want to scare  the reader. I think it’s far more difficult as a writer to create a sense of lasting discomfort. I don’t want the reader to be smiling or feel satisfaction at the end of the story. I want the reader to be kinda mad. Grossed out. Maybe dwelling on something in it that made them uncomfortable.

I really enjoy the idea of taking very literary devices and kneading them into horror.

I want Reign in Blood by Slayer AND I want the Moonlit Sonata.

I want cake AND I want dragon’s breath spicy crispy chicken.

We all know I’m a greedy and promiscuous reader.

Of course, my writing tends to go the same way.

I’ve been writing this while drinking tea and doing stuff for the dayjob.

I think I’m done now.

So there you go, another view into how I function and create. Next time we’ll talk soundtracks and how music gets into my work.

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