Metaphor and Voice

guy lying on grass
Use of distinctive metaphors will give characters a strong voice.

Most of the stories I’ve been working on are pretty character driven. I tend to start with a character and then wonder what they are up to in order to get the plot moving along. One of the things I worry about is Character Voice. I come from a video/film background and could kind of fudge on Voice in scripts because that is one of the wonderful things an actor brings to the work. As an aside, I am in awe of an actors ability to become someone else and bring a character to life. For writers working in a text based media, we have to do all of the work. (Well actually the reader does the work but we have to lay the ground work.)  So I worry about getting the distinct vibrant personalities in my head down on the “paper” so the reader can experience these people the way I do.

I think the majority of characterization comes through dialogue. And an important part of speech are the metaphors we use. The little examples and stories we use from our lives to illustrate conversations. Metaphors reveal our world-view and life experiences. When used in writing, they help place our characters in time and place. They help make the setting a real place with real people. They are also the breadcrumbs of our character’s back-story. The young woman from the farm will not only talk “different” than the shield-maiden, she will also use different metaphors to explain her world.

I know this is pretty basic but sometimes we needed to be reminded of the basics. I know I do. Jael McHenry’s blog post at Writer Unboxed struck a note with me and made me think about this. I am worried that sometimes the MCs in the Sci-Fi story I’m working on now might sound a bit too similar. I’m putting a note in Scrivener to keep an eye out for this as I review and edit.

For the writers out there, how do you approach characterization, voice and the use of metaphor in dialogue? For you readers, have you ever been reading and thought, This just doesn’t sound right—they wouldn’t say that?

Thanks for stopping by!

-Stephen

Author: Stephen del Mar

Stephen del Mar lives in the Tampa Bay area and writes in the Southern Literary tradition. His stories are character driven with rich settings. They often have a touch of the paranormal, supernatural, or magical realism. Although he writes about serious subjects, they are sweetened with humor and wit. He says, "It's a southern thing."