Exercises on Voice

Inspired by Nicholas Delbanco’s Washington Post article, “Remembering the Reyes”, he writes about the imperative need for a dialectic, all urgent writing has, at its core contains an argument and counter-argument. So how can a writer “shape-shift at will” from one voice to another? Here are a few simple but essential exercises for staking each characters claim in the volatile landscape of conflict:

Dialogue– Write two pages of two characters arguing about the central conflict. Pay attention to the voice of each. Think of what’s left unspoken and let what’s verbally said lead to, stab at, but as Gypsy Rose Lee emphasized in her performances, the focus is on the tease.

Getting Physical– The body talks in more ways than words could ever. Pick a location that will require lots of physical action and interaction and, again, in two pages, have the flesh do and say what words can’t.

Epistles– If you’re not sure how to strip tease in dialogue, first write an epistle from each of the characters, journal entries, letters, emails, whatever kind of written confession you deem fit. Get their thoughts on paper from their perspective, 2 pages each, of course, then go back and circle what material you can use for scenes of dialogue, leaving the juicy stuff to the reader’s imagination.


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