This Writing Thing – Voice, Part II

Part I is HERE.

~ ~ o ~ ~

Where was I? Oh, yeah . . .

5.     Ambition – what is the character’s passion? What goal is your character trying to accomplish?

*sigh* . . . my characters need a passion? Goals? How can I give what I don’t have?

Perhaps I am misreading this . . . perhaps passion and goal can refer to general terms, but I fear most people’s interpretation of those two words is not going to match mine.

For example, racquetball used to be the single most enjoyable pastime I ever had. I gave it up cold turkey. Side note: earlier this month was the two year anniversary of my last RB games.

I enjoy photography, but I could give it up in a blink. I enjoy writing, but I could stop without looking back. I derive tremendous pleasure from maintaining my blog, but I could walk away from it without a second thought, and something else would come in to fill the void.

Goals? I want to enjoy life, whatever that means. Paraphrasing something I often say and think: I’ll know it when I see it. Today it might be watching a movie. Tomorrow it might be reading a book.

Truthfully, I don’t know what goals are worthy of writing about. World peace? World domination? Equality? 

In my book – a figurative, not an actual book – a passion or a goal are often weaknesses; something that can be leveraged against said person. Worse yet, it may be something causing the person to compromise their ideals, their honor, their self-respect, and forego the scruples they once had. Passions and goals often turn into an obsession, and that seldom ends well.

. . . hmm . . . I suppose I could write about obsessions and the eventual ruining of lives, relationships, and friendships.

Of course, I would be making stuff up whole cloth but then, that’s what writers do.

No. I rather write about people who are subject to changing conditions; they are not the drivers of those conditions, but they will react to them, probably kicking some major ass in the process.

6.     Character defect – everyone has some personality trait that irritates friends and family.

FINALLY! . . . something right up my wheel-well!

People who are not on my mailing list are not familiar with my signature . . . let me copy it here (only the first part; the rest is a quote and links to my stuff):

(Winning enemies and irritating friends since 1953)

It may sound as if I’m proud of the fact. Au contraire!

. . . it’s just how it is. I don’t hold back. I don’t excuse anyone. Even as I recognize not everything is black-and-white, some things are. You are my friend as long as you don’t end up on the wrong side of any of those things. Stranger, friend, family; it does not matter.

I could go into the whole philosophy of life thing, but this is not the place. Suffice it to say I got this covered. If I’m writing a main protagonist, that character will be uncompromising. He/she might be a jerk, but on some things they are uncompromising. He/she might annoy the crap out of people, but consistently so, regardless of the consequences.

So . . .  my primary characters have flaws and defects, right?

Uh . . . I don’t see them as flaws, but others might. I suppose I’ll call this a half-win.

7.     Thoughts – what kind of interior dialogue does the character have?

Here again, I got this covered. My character’s internal dialogue is often complex and some would say, deep.

One of the things I do as a discovery writer is arrive at the next scene or action by letting my character analyze, debate, and eventually arrive at a conclusion as to the next course of action.

This is both giving readers a glimpse into the character, but also serves me well in avoiding stupid actions.

If the character makes a mistake, it will be because they lack a piece of information. At the time they are evaluating their next course of action, I want them to cover everything they know, guess at stuff they don’t, and then act accordingly.

They might make an error, but as more information is presented, they will adapt, adjust, and forge through the obstacles they face.

Coincidentally, this is a bit like I live my life; go with the best decision possible, honestly made, mindful of consequences to oneself and others, but be prepared to adjust to unknown developments. Most of all, no regrets about things out of one’s control, or wrong decision because of incomplete information.

My characters are seldom monolithic in their views and actions, but at all times they try “doing the right thing”, and that internal dialogue is what informs the readers of the why of their actions.

8.     Everyman-ness – how relatable is your character?

I think I’ve covered the physical aspects in #3, and #7 covered the mental aspects, so I see this as a redundant point. But, perhaps as a way of summary, let me bring those two points home under this heading.

The characters I write are consistently average with respect to their actions. Literally, they should be relatable to everyone.

By this I mean that be they elf, technically superior alien, or capable of wielding magic, I want readers relating to their behavior. I want readers relate to doing the right thing, standing up to injustice, confronting bullies, protecting the weak, and so on.

Sure, it’s difficult relating to a wizard, or an alien with amazing technology, and especially an alien race, but it should not be difficult relating to what drives their actions. When one of my characters makes a decision, I want my readers to at the very least say “I should do that” if not outright “I would do that.”

OK, I write for a world that does not exist, has never existed, and perhaps will never exist. But the characters I write about are sprinkled throughout history and live amongst us. They are the ones willing to risk everything to fight for what’s right, and they are the ones responsible for most of humanity’s advancement.

In that regard, I want everyone to identify with them; with doing the right thing.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now. No; wait . . .

I cannot stand books and movies where people struggle with moral/ethical questions and fail the test, fail to make the obvious choice.

Sure, that’s the world that surrounds us . . . so why would I want to read about it or watch it on a screen? Books and movies are my escape from the real world; if they can’t do that for me, if they can’t provide that escape, then they are of no use to me.

9.     Restrictions – what physical or mental weakness must your character overcome? The goal is to humanize the character.

Hmm . . . this is a tough one. You see, I don’t agree with the humanize bit . . . to me, being human carries a big responsibility. The moment you fail that responsibility, I think you lose your right to being called human. In this I differ significantly from much of society.

Kick a dog, and you are no better than a dog. Abuse someone who is defenseless? Sorry, please hand in your human membership card. Profit at the expense of others?  Whatever you see in the mirror only looks like a human; it is not, in fact, human.

This is yet another of my blind spots . . . You cannot use the same word as both signifying something great, something with tremendous potential, something capable of literally conquering the stars . . . and then use “human” as an excuse for failing.

So here I part company with most writers. Most religions. The thinking of most readers.

Redemption is a big theme in literature, in movies, in religion, in everyday life.

Screw that! It’s one thing doing something without knowing it might have bad consequences for others. It’s another doing it knowing it is bad, and only later acknowledge the fact, asking forgiveness, asking for a pass.

Sorry; no redemption . . . you don’t get to pay yourself back for your failings.

. . . oops; got carried away. And yes, I do know life is not like that. That’s why I write fiction.

~ ~ o ~ ~

OK, so where are we? 

Let’s score this puppy . . . we’ll use zero (0) as neutral, minus one (-1) for not meeting criteria, and plus one (+1) for meeting criteria. If I have a strong voice, I’ll score nine (9), and if I suck at voice, I’ll have minus nine (-9).

1.     Communication style – zero (0)
2.     History – minus one (-1)

3.     Appearance – minus one (-1)
4.     Relationships – minus one (-1)
5.     Ambition – zero (0)
6.     Character defect – plus one (1)
7.     Thoughts – plus one (1)
8.     Everyman-ness – plus one (1)
9.     Restrictions – zero (0)

Let me see; let me grab my trusty calculator . . . hmm . . . zero (0)!

Well, what do you know! I’ll probably not get accepted to the workshop; any workshop, ever!

However, I’m not done . . . let me write a little something:

 ~ ~ o ~ ~

Guido takes a walk
Copyright 2015, E. J. D’Alise 

It had been a long day, the third in a row. Guido looks at the sofa; so inviting. He then looks at the TV. He was halfway through streaming the Claymore series episodes.

He looks to the window . . . drops are leaving streaks on the outer pane. Sighing, Guido putson his hat and slicker, grabs the keys, and heads out.

He holds little hope of success; it has been a week since he last had a glimpse, and even then he’d not been sure.

As he steps out, the drops seem to converge on him. He looks up . . . just darkness. He looks both ways and then decides to head north. He would be walking into the wind, but at least the rain would be at his back on the way home.

He stops at every alley, every empty lot, every underpass. He waits a few minutes, looking around for any movement, any indication of her presence. And then he moves on.

This would be the last night he would look.

. . . but he had told himself that every night this whole past week.

He reaches the highway. The road ends at the highway. The nearest crossing is an underpass nearly a mile away. He turns – and there she is.

Her hair is plastered to her body, now noticeably thinner. She’s shivering but still eyes him warily as he approaches. He moves slowly, not saying a word. She doesn’t look up as he gets closer.

He hugs her, wrapping the slicker around her. He feels her tense, and then relax. They head back.

< < < o > > >

He knocks again. It was late; they might already be asleep.

He hears someone approach the door. He sees the light come on and then go dark in the peep-hole, and then hears the door lock. The woman opens the door, the safety chain still in place. Guido opens his slicker.

The woman looks down at her, then back up at him. The door closes, and he hears the chain being removed at the same time as the woman yells out a name.


A moment later a sleepy eight-year-old girl stands at the door, her mother resting one hand on her shoulders.

Guido, unwraps the slicker as he speaks.

“I found your cat,” he says.

The little girl’s eyes get as huge as the smile that grows on her lips.


She rushes forward, taking the cat from Guido’s hands.

As Lindsey hugs the cat, the mother asks Guido if he would like to come in for a moment.

“No thank you; you guys have a big day tomorrow, and I need to sleep. Hope your move goes well. I hear Colorado is nice this time of year. Oh, and good luck with the new job.”

They shake hands, and Guido returns to his apartment. He changes from his wet clothes and promises himself  “only one episode” as he sits in front of the TV with a warm glass of milk. Tomorrow would be another long day; shelves did not stock themselves.

The End.

~ ~ o ~ ~

. . . I think I managed to break all the guidelines.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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21 Responses to This Writing Thing – Voice, Part II

  1. Well, breaking all of the guidelines works! Your story of Guido is wonderful! :-) Just keep writing your way! :-) And thank you for sharing what you are leaning about This Writing Thing!
    HUGS and Happy Whee-kend!!! :-)


  2. PS…that commercial is very funny!!! :-)


  3. I read both parts. Lots of good information here. Guido Takes a Walk is engaging and enjoyable. Nice job! Love that commercial!


    • disperser says:

      Well, you’re published . . . you know all that stuff already.

      And thanks; had not done flash writing for a while and had forgotten how enjoyable it was.


      • Published … … I write by the seat of my pants, and I have yet to read a book about the craft of writing. I have this nagging feeling that if I do, I’ll screw everything up.

        I’ve recently thought about trying my hand at flash fiction. I know it’s much harder than it looks. I’m impressed by those of you who do it well.


      • disperser says:

        Yeah, my worry too. Then again, I crave learning things, and through a lifetime of doing so, I don’t think I’ve lost who I am, what I do, and how I do it.

        The thinking here is to still write my stories, still give them my slant, but perhaps do it with more finesse and a better understanding of not only what works and what doesn’t, but also why.

        There’s already a ton of information I’ve heard in interviews and podcasts, and so far I’ve been able to take what I want from it, and let go of what does not suit me. I think my writing is the better for it.

        As for flash fiction . . . you see something, think of something, and see if you can use it in a story.

        This came to me from some shots of carnations . . . I associated it with some stories of old, adapted to how people date these days. Story after the second photo:

        This one came to me from the arrangement of bathrooms where I worked . . . the two doors (men’s and women’s) faced each other, and I always thought having two people exit at the same time would be awkward . . . (this one is very short):

        Think of it as a single scene in a longer narrative.


  4. Emily Scott says:

    We have very different opinions on what makes an interesting character… for instance, one of my favourite books is Lolita, definitely an example of a character making flawed moral choices. The Picture of Dorian Gray, too – it can be intoxicating to be sucked into the mind of someone set on doing the wrong thing, because it tempts you, it allows you to experience things you never could in real life.


    • disperser says:

      I suppose . . . but, assume one already has a dark, dark mind . . . one that no made-up character could match; perhaps such a mind seeks the opposite, wanting to indulge in the intoxicating fantasy of doing good, being good.

      Those poor slobs have hardly anyone writing for them; I aim to fill the void.


      • Emily Scott says:

        I wish being good felt that intoxicating in real life! I’m happy for you that you can indulge in it on the page.


      • disperser says:

        Hmm . . . there are a couple of different takes on that comment.

        Seriously, that is a constant struggle . . . it’s difficult doing the right thing, not cheating, not taking advantage of others, not stealing, not lying when so many others are seen profiting from it.

        One of the reasons I no longer follow sports is that the object is to win at all costs; bend the rules, break them when you can, and if you can get away with something, do it. Apparently, accepting defeat, accepting being bested, is not something people are taught; instead, if the guy gets by you, if she’s more skilled, if the other team is more disciplined . . . cheat, lie, do whatever it takes to win. It’s seen as a virtue.

        It’s the primary reason I have never liked team sports; everything I did after I came to the US was individual stuff.

        Companies are no better, and it’s almost expected from individuals. You get ridiculed for doing the “right thing”, and it’s one of the reasons we don’t have many friends; invariably people do stuff for personal gain at the expense of others, it’s something I can’t overlook.

        So, you are right . . . there is no intoxicating feeling from doing the right thing, being honest, being good. Quite the opposite; frustration, the occasional anger as you see others profit from dishonesty and cheating, the disillusionment with the vast members of humanity as you see people who should know better fail at basic human decency, fail at honesty, and do so for greed or personal convenience. Do so even when they don’t have to.

        . . . still, one should try and live an honest and good life. There is no intoxicating feeling; it’s about being able to look in the mirror.


        • Emily Scott says:

          Yes, the behaviour of others can be very frustrating and upsetting. Reading the news is often a depressing thing, even on the small scale of local news. SometImes I find my own behaviour disappointing too, which is even worse in a way, as then I have only myself to blame. Humans are such flawed creatures. I’m sure we’d be far nicer if more closely related to gorillas than chimps (mind wanderings).


        • disperser says:

          We’d certainly have more impressive forearms.

          . . . and always look pensive and aloof . . .


  5. AnnMarie says:

    Since what little television I watch is PBS, thanks for the very funny commercial. And your Flash pieces are always enchanting, just like the above. You have a real talent for them.


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