Listening To The Voices Of Your Characters

Let me introduce you to the main characters in the Der Reizen series—Herta Tanner and Turan Freiermann. This is Herta’s impression of how they met.

“My apologies, Fraulein” a deep voice rumbled in her ear and at her back.

Herta’s heart stopped and she forgot how to breathe. That voice! It slid like warm chocolate along her nerves and his breath on her neck threatened to dissolve every bone in her body. She drew a shaky breath. Melting into a puddle at the sound of a voice or touch of a hand wasn’t something she did in public. She needed control. She felt like she was blushing right down to her toenails. Good thing he can’t see all of me, she thought. Then again… She drew another breath.

“It is of no moment,” she said, her voice sounding cold and arrogant, even to herself. “You may release me now.”

The man chuckled and stepped back. Herta’s knees trembled at the sound.

~Excerpt from Chapter 4

Writing these characters proved a challenge for me. For one thing, I wrote the story by listening to Herta and Turan tell me their stories. Trying to listen to characters who talk to you over the course of fifteen years is hard. I had to keep rereading parts I’d written in order to remember what was supposed to come next.

One thing Herta shares with Turan is the need to be ‘in control’ of herself, if not the situation. It seems to be a common trait among people I know. Some are like Herta and need to be in control of themselves at all times. Others are like Turan, who prefers to be in control of any given situation. When he doesn’t have that control, he gets frustrated and his self-control suffers. If Herta doesn’t have control of herself, she either flails out physically or walks away—Fight or flight.

One of my reviewers on Goodreads complained that she could have cheerfully knocked Turan’s and Herta’s heads together because of their unwillingness to see the other person’s view or to hear the other one out. I had a heck of a time with them. They needed to be together or my whole story fell apart.

While Herta was being tetchy about events, Turan honestly didn’t know what the problem was. He’s not from around here, as the saying goes. Dealing with men versus women and trying to think like the opposite sex is hard. (I have a male beta reader for just that reason.) Add in unfamiliar territory and culture and the problem can almost be overwhelming. I tried to feel sorry for Turan, but the Tiel arrogance I wasn’t sure existed came out in full force at times. Herta, too, drove me nuts with her stubborn behavior.

So why should you listen to voices in your head? In the case of a writer, that voice is the subconscious speaking. It’s the voice of your characters telling you their story. It’s your writer’s mind telling you how your characters will react to any given situation. It’s the constant in your story.

You need that constant in order to make the characters believable and to suspend disbelief in your reader. They need to feel your story is real and if the characters aren’t real, neither is the story.

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