Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Voice of Your World & Characters ~guest post by Shaun Eyles

We're very pleased to have Shaun Eyles here with us today at The Speculative Salon. He's going in-depth on an interesting topic--the voice of your fantasy world. Please check out his latest releases below.


When a writer begins writing fantasy fiction, it is akin to opening a huge birthday gift that you just know contains the best and biggest new toy. Fantasy fiction means imagining what could be, and what could never be, and it is ever so tempting to run wild and forget that what you right is a reflection on the world you are creating.

However, approaching fantasy fiction, or any type of fiction, without considering a more careful approach can lead to trouble. One of the pitfalls that many writers appear to fall into is a belief that fantasy fiction must always be laden with poetic language and that they must describe every place, every object, every person and every emotion in what I refer to as unnecessary flowery terms. In itself, these two elements of writing – poetic language and heavy detail – are not bad writing, but they should suit the novel you are writing and not be used in a way that confuses the voice of your world and characters or disrupts the flow of your work.

Before I continue, let me explain what highlighted the importance of world and character voice to me. One day I decided to listen to an audio version of the Wheel of Time series. It was the first time that I had listened to an audio book, and I immediately noticed one thing. The careful use of detail and voice.Listening to the words spoken out loud emphasized what I believe many writers already understand. Every element of a story, from descriptions of your world and characters to dialogue and all elements in between, are linked to one central world. Something else became apparent to me then. The world you create has a voice. I don’t simply mean the voice of the characters, but also the voice of the overall world in which your story is situated.

Voice is a term that I think many new writers often confuse with another writing term, flow. The flow of a novel is how it read as a while, while the voice of a novel is how well the writer expresses the world and story they have created. Each is important and each depends on the other to some degree in order to be successfully accomplished. If the voice of your novel becomes bogged down with excessive detail or pages of unnecessary flowery language, then the flow will suffer as the reader struggles to work through your work. If the flow of the novel is disrupted by too many unimportant scenes or storylines, then the voice of your novel will suffer as a result. A confused reader will not be receptive to the voice of your world or characters.

Let’s now dive into as aspect of a novel’s voice, one of characterization. As an author, you’re writing in the point of view of somebody else, who exists in a particular place at a particular point of time. The character lives amongst a community, a world, full of customs and commonalities in dress, language and other assorted social norms and nuances. They do not exist in a vacuum. Their voice in not only of who they are, but of how the overall structure of your world deems they behave. For example, you character may be a thief, somebody who is street smart and hardened by life. It does not make sense to write descriptions or dialogue for your thief that includes poetic metaphor or romantic language or imagery. Your thief would not think in that way. It makes more sense to have the character think sharply and see things as they are, without frills and frippery. Conversely, in the same novel, you may have a character raised within money, somebody who had the benefits of education and the opportunity to travel or spend time reading or relaxing in quiet contemplation. This character may see the world through romantic eyes and therefore would speak or describe their surroundings and events in more poetic detail.

How your characters describe their world should depend upon the situation you create for them. For example, your well educated and wealthy character who describes and speaks about your world through a romantic’s eyes may find themselves thrown into peril, stalked by a killer or hunted by sinister beings or magic. How does this change their view of the world? Think about how you would react in a similar situation. Would your mind see things in crisp and sharp detail, or would you continue to see the world as romantic or poetic? When your character’s heart races from fear or anxiety, their perception should shift for they may suddenly become hyper focused on the smallest sounds and flickers of light, or easily startled by new situations or when confronted by other characters. As writers, we need to remember that characters, just like people, are complex and will react to certain situations in different ways. In one moment, your use of poetic language or heavy detail will suit the voice of your world, and then in the next scene you may need to strip out the heavy detail and poetic language to make way for sharp sentences and straight forward descriptions.

In this way, the change in your novel’s voice has also hastened the flow of the novel. Both voice and flow work together to suck the reader into a feeling of urgency or fear.

Writing is hard work and from experience it is all about patience and practice when you are developing your skills. When it comes to the voice of a novel, I think the following holds true. A character that reacts to their world and perceives it differently in different moments in time will appear more real than a character written without a flexible voice. Your novel will have many characters, each with a unique view of life. Throw in some personality, alter the way in which they describe the world or speak when life throws them a curve ball, and your novel will shine.


Shaun Eyles writes novels that twist genres and blur boundaries. The first two novels of his contemporary vampire fantasy series, The Novels of The Second Coming, are available from Amazon and the third volume in the series, Nest, will be released shortly. This series returns the reader to the vampire of old, the vampire that wants to kill humans and not take them to the prom.

Never happy to wear the one hat, Shaun has also finished work on the first “off-shoot” novel in the Novels of the Second Coming world, and has also completed his first zombie themed novel.
When not writing, Shaun tends his gardens and spends time in the online World of Warcraft community.

There are always multiple ideas in the pipelines, so keep an eye out for the next idea to be planted in the garden.

Novels of the Second Coming

Book 1: Rebirth

Book 2: Evolve

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