Don't Worry About What People Will Think
One of the most important lessons I've learned about writing is to be true to my character’s voice AND, not to worry about what 'people' will think. When I was writing Beauty Beneath the Banyan (BBTB) one of my biggest regrets was my inexperience lead me to compromise this principle.
Be True to Your Character
One of my male narrators was an American Raven fighter pilot stationed in Laos during the Vietnam War. These pilots flew clandestine missions in America’s Secret War and unlike Vietnam where the pilots had to adhere to strict ‘Rules of Engagement,’ the Ravens were the cowboys of the airways where no such rules existed.
I had a fantastic time writing this mavericks storyline. He was a faded jean, untucked loosely buttoned Bermuda shirt, cowboy boots wearing kinda guy who was shall we say…was a little rough around the edges. In line with his personality, his language would be just as rough. Raven was the character who provided me with an opportunity to use all the bad words I had collected over my life time.
Embrace the F-Word
I did play with the ‘naughty’ words to a certain extent, but I could not bring myself to incorporate the F-word into Raven’s vocabulary. This was unfortunate because Raven would have used it and, he would have used it A LOT—especially given the war time setting.
When I was constructing Raven’s dialogue the F-word did make an appearance on more than one occasion in my head, but it never made its way to the computer screen. Can I just say…for me it was one thing to say the F-word out loud and quite another, to actually bring myself to write it. I couldn’t do it. Recollections of being a little girl who learned this was a VERY bad word and it should never be said, played through my mind as did…OMG! what will my Mom and her book club have to say about this? Sooooo my censor won, and Raven’s vocabulary did not include the F-word. For more information about how to turn-off your internal censor, please click here.
Don't Ignore Your Character's Voice
My advice to writers is to turn off the filter and write your character true to their voice. Do not let your censor get in the way of developing your character's voice. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, do what I did to Raven—I regret not having the confidence to have written Raven dropping an F-bomb when he felt like it.
Have you ever ignored your character's voice?
Don't Use Your Words
As writers, we love our words. We spend our days with words and we love playing with them. We also become very attached to words—I know I do. Often, when I'm reviewing a passage, I find myself thinking geez, that's a great word and I'll give myself a little pat on the back. But this is where I need to put on the brakes and consider...just because I love a word, it doesn't mean that my character would use it.
During the editing process, watch out for vocabulary or phrasing the jumps out at you as being 'your word(s).' Ask yourself...is that a word my character would say? If it's not, you have to replace it with a word your character would have in their vocabulary. This is critical for the authenticity of your characters voice.