Six Reasons to Fall into a Character’s Voice

So you’ve got a lot of characters to choose from, are good at falling into voice for just about any of them—and next thing you know, you find yourself doing so. I’m not talking about at the game table, though hopefully it’s happening then as well, nor when you’re practicing being in voice. No, I’m talking about things like over board games, discussing rather irrelevant topics, explaining things to people—but why is it happening? What sorts of things does it make sense to slip into voice on, and why does it happen?

  • Differentiating between the character’s opinion of events and your opinion—only out of character. One of my friends had a tendency to explain what “OOC Luath” or “OOC Rilik” or what-have-you’s reaction to a situation might be, particularly when OOC [Insert Character Here]’s opinion would be several times funnier than his would. There really wasn’t that much difference between the OOC and IC versions of the character, either, just knowledge of the fourth wall.
  • Talking about things in which the character’s opinion of the situation and the creator’s opinion differ dramatically. I find this is likeliest to happen when you’re dealing with a character who has no problem whatsoever with things the creator finds rather repugnant. I find myself doing this a lot, particularly when dealing with antagonistic characters; it took me a while to get used to the idea that I was capable of coming up with the kinds of nastiness my villains (and occasionally my more ruthless PCs) manage, so I often found myself explaining things in their voice because it didn’t seem as bad when a character meant to be talking about it was talking about it.
  • For that matter, sometimes just talking about things where you’ve got a character who is more an expert in the subject than you are. Sometimes it’s pretty neutral, like a highly politically minded character from one timeline trying to explain her process to a player who’s having a little trouble wrapping his head around what his character’s supposed to be doing in another. It gets a bit more odd, though, when it combines with the previous point; I once found myself in a situation where I was in a semi-sidechat alongside one other PC, playing in one chat window while I was explaining to my GM the ways I considered likeliest to successfully mess with our characters’ heads, if not break them entirely, in the voice of one of my favorite antagonists. (Truthfully, mind you; I find GMs trying to mess with my head to be interesting, and like to make sure they at least have a shot at doing it well.)
  • Engaging in cross-world conversation. I find that when I’m talking to someone about a particularly quirky character they enjoy playing, it’s as often as not a lot easier for me to try to set up a conversation between the characters (no matter how impossible that would be on their side of the Fourth Wall) than to try to just treat with it through straight, objective description. Doing this while playing a board game is optional but amusing.
  • Looking over characterization exercises. I find this works particularly often when I’m doing a second-stage phase of a casting exercise, not just taking characters and assigning them roles within a show/book/video game but also discussing their opinions of their casting, but it’s probably applicable to just about anything. (Sometime I should consider what some of my characters would think of my blog. Should be good for a laugh or three.)
  • And last of all—letting the character talk because her perspective, knowledge, and other factors combine to make her viewpoint on any given subject likely more amusing than your unvarnished viewpoint would be. Nobody ever said there weren’t advantages to playing it for laughs!

So what drops you into voice? Any really good incidents?

1 comment

  1. Michael (writing as Thetis) says:

    Falling into voice? I find that to be a strange concept. It came up only last night, when my Mistress tried to explain to me why her whole attitude and the way she spoke seemed to have changed after she transformed. Now, I’ve seen many previous masters mess around with transforming themselves, and I can tell you, it doesn’t do that. But she said it was because she was a writer and it was natural for her to “get into character”, whatever that means. If you want my opinion, it means that when you put on a mask and look down on someone who’s normally two feet above you, it makes you feel that you can get away with things you normally wouldn’t, and so they just slip out. She addressed me as “minion”, if you can believe that. I was shocked. She did try to apologise for it afterwards, but I could tell that she felt I should be satisfied with the character explanation and leave it at that. It unsettles me, to be honest. How can you know where you are with a person if one minute they can be themselves and the next, someone completely different? Honestly, does that make any sense to you?

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