Friday, October 7, 2011

Interviewing a Character: Developing Voice in Dialogue

So my newest assignment in my Writing Workshop is to develop  "voice". To show which character is which by the way they talk. We  could not use any "tags" (he said, she said, he roared, she snarked). It was to be pure dialogue between two people, one of your characters and an interviewer. This could be an interview for a job, by the police, etc. The two characters needed to be distinctly different, so the reader could immediately tell who was who.

I went through the exercise with my little character Bets. And it was good. But it had been suggested to write interviews with several characters and then pick the best one. So I decided to try one with the character Giles, the Minstrel.  He's a tricky character and sometimes hard to "get a bead on", when writing. I have a "role" I need him to play in my story, but he keeps asserting himself and doing the unexpected.

And if any of you read the scene between Neil the Nit and Giles and Neil's cousins from last week, you will know that Giles seemed pretty despicable in those 500 words. I knew that there was good in him and in my story which takes place a little more than ten years later, he and Neil are friends. So how does one go from point A to point B when they are such miles apart? That's what I wanted to investigate. I'm also including the beginning of the interview which showed another side of Giles: the Womanizer. Still can't keep his hands/eyes/ thoughts off of them. Sigh! But Neil has a good influence on him, almost like a bridle and bit, at times.

(Do you like my illustration, above! It's actually quite close to what I imagined him to be. Think this picture with a little Legolas the Elf. Long hair and little braids near his face.)

Okay, the first part that I cut so I could keep within 500 words:

“So, Giles. Thanks for coming over. I see you have your lute.”

“Whatever ye request, milady, it shall be my pleasure to perform. Anything.”

“Whoa! Giles. Um…”

“Aye, milady?”

“That look belongs on the afternoon soaps, not in my living room.”

“Perhaps a love song?”

“Not a love song. I wanted to talk.”

“Every lass wants to talk. And then…”

“I should have asked Neil.”


“Your buddy, Neil. Son of Lord Lillenhite. Ring a bell?”

“Aye. My bosom friend, since boyhood.”

“Yeah? I heard about your boyhood pranks with the dairymaids. Not cool, buddy.

And then the meat of the matter - at exactly 500 words...

“Neil’s been tattling tales, has he? Did he tell ye how it ended with my jaw nearly cracked. ‘Tis cruel to damage a man’s livelihood. If I couldn’t sing…”

“Save it, Giles. You got what you deserved, and your jaw obviously wasn’t damaged that badly. I want to hear how you became friends with Neil. You guys are so different.”

“And why would that surprise ye? He was born in a castle. I was born in the back of a tavern. I have no land. I wandered all my life, settling for a few days or months, no longer.”

“Were you jealous?”

“Who wouldn’t want a castle, a title, an uncle who was king? Aye, he was a proper little stick then, ‘tis true. But, the next year, when I returned to Neil’s valley, I was ready to yoke myself to his fine manners for a bit of decent company. It helped that he started growing; no longer a baby-faced twit. And then, do ye know what changed everything? At the end of that summer, ye know what he said?”


“That he was jealous.”

“Of you?”

“I swear by my lute strings! Lord Lillenhite had been after him day and night to be a proper nobleman. Neil was fair miserable. But it took ‘til his fifteenth summer before he cracked like a nut. Then, we ran away.”

“You helped him run away? From the castle?”

“O’ course. Couldn’t leave him stranded like a…”

“But how did you survive on your own?”

“Well, I had my lute and Neil had been practicing on the fiddle I had given him a while before, as a…favor.”

“Let me guess. He bailed you out of trouble.”

“Not before I had paid for my sins with a dozen stripes cross my back. But he kept them from killing me. So, I owed him. I gave him my fiddle, which I wasn’t so fond of anyway. The lad sings like a hoarse raven, but he became a fair fiddler. So we went from village, to town, to castle, earning our bread and butter and a few coins besides.”

“Sounds like quite the adventure. How long were you gone?”

“More than a year, ‘twas. I was fair surprised to find he had a decent ear. Could fiddle any tune he heard, and add a bit of fancy trim to it as well. ‘Twas the best coin I’d earned. O’ course we needed every copper penny as he kept growin’ outta his clothes and boots. Hit his growth that year and kept on going up. Didn’t know he’d become a giant from that piddly thing he was when he was ten.”

“So what brought you back?”

“Neil’s uncle died. Dolf had to take the throne and Neil was next in line, ye know.”

“That must have been hard, to leave behind your friend.”

“Harder on him than me. Poor wretch; to trade sunshine, music and mountains for a granite-walled city and tight-fitting velvet. I’d die, I would.”

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