Voice and Character

Photo by Khoman Room on Unsplash

How do I give voice without speaking? What words are said in images we paint rather than words on a page? How do we show and not simply tell?

This morning I ground some fresh coffee whilst running an update on my computer. The screen had a progress bar indicating 30 minutes of thinking time. I saw a pile of books on my desk and picked up a Grisham novel, a fast paced story, about the theft of some valuable F Scott Fitzgerald’s manuscripts.

I flicked open a few pages and saw dialogue quotation marks littering the pages. I decided to randomly select sixteen of the three hundred and eight pages and count how many sentences of dialogue were contained on each.

They ranged from none to sixteen. In fact, my sample range covered nearly all numbers from none to sixteen which indicated, in a mildly broad sense of the word, a good sample.

In total there were 132 lines of dialogue on 15.5 pages (the last page was only half a page) suggesting an average of 8.5 lines per page. There are 308 pages in the book, by no means a world record, which suggests 2,623 lines of dialogue in total. My guess is that as it’s a Grisham novel there will be quite a few less than that in reality. He uses text to drive pace and tension. Dialogue in his books is often stucatto and can slow the pace. He uses it sparingly.

As there are thirty lines of text per page, I have assumed that he uses 88 pages of dialogue which represents 28% of the book.

I shall endeavour to keep the pace of my book fast and tension filled. Unsettling and twisted to unnerve the reader. I want to create insecurity and doubt on every page. As the truth is unveiled and as the human condition is revealed to challenge our current state, I am aiming for no more than 25% of the book to be dialogue.

There will be no small talk, it will be brief and impactful. It will be more suggestive than descriptive. It is equally a tool for communicating feeling and desire as it is to expose the character and flaws of each voice.

My aim is for around 65,000 words…this will give you the best part of 17,000 words to take a deep look at your preconceptions, your motivations and your own desires. An examination of your own human condition in a world going mad.