Our guest author for today is Tracey Baptiste. Tracey writes both fiction and nonfiction and penned one of my favorite middle grade novels of 2015, The Jumbies. It’s a fantastic, spooky adventure set in the Caribbean, where Tracey grew up reading Grimm’s fairy tales and wishing for books that featured the wonderful stories her family told in Trinidad. She couldn’t find them — so she wrote one.
Tracey has a series of writing prompts for us today – all focusing on VOICE:
One of the things I struggle with most is voice, so I have a few tricks that I use to make sure that every character in my book has their own strong point of view, even if they are just coming in for a quick comic relief.
You probably already know how important voice is. Two people telling the same story won’t say it in the same way, and it’s likely that you’ll find one more compelling than the other. That’s voice. So you want to make sure that your characters all have compelling voices, even if that voice is meant to be annoying, or aggravating, or inciting as needed in your story. Whatever it is they have to do, they have to be able to do it well.
So let’s get to it. For each of these exercises you’ll need a quiet space to work, and a timer. You can do these exercises for all of your characters, but starting with any character you’re struggling to understand is probably your best bet.
Exercise 1: Visualization
Picture your character walking through a door that is far away. All you can see is the shape of their body because there is a bright light behind them. When they step through the door, describe what they are wearing. (Write all you can in 2 mins.)
As they move further into the room, describe the objects that you can see around them. (Write all you can in 2 mins.)
As they stand in the middle of the room, people begin walking toward them. Describe who these people are and what their relationship is to your character. (Write all you can in 4 mins.)
Exercise 2: Becoming Your Character
Put yourself in your character’s shoes and answer the following interview questions as if you are them. What do you love the most? What do you hate the most? Who are you jealous of? If you could do anything right now, what would it be? What is your biggest secret?
Exercise 3: Flip the Switch
Imagine that a bad guy with an opposite-ray dropped into your book from hyperspace. The opposite-ray hits your character full in the face and now they are the complete antithesis of the person they were before. Now answer the same questions above again. What do you love the most? What do you hate the most? Who are you jealous of? If you could do anything right now, what would it be? (I don’t include the secret question because presumably will be the same.)
Exercise 4: Conversion
Take any scene from your current WIP that includes the character you’ve been working on. Strip away all of the setting information, the emotional tag lines and write it as a play with only the characters’ words and any stage directions that move your character into a spot that helps your plot to continue, such as: Moves to door. Door swings open and hits them in the face. Now see how the words your character uses without any props conveys their emotions, or DOESN’T convey their emotions.
Note from Kate: If you’d like to share a paragraph of what you wrote today, please feel free to do that in the comments!