Character voice is critical to projects like Boyhood Adventures. But sustaining voices of young boys living in Texarkana, Arkansas in 1953, has drawbacks. After hours, days and weeks of writing dialog, I find my mind thinking in character voice and even speaking in character voice. It drives my wife crazy. But – to me – it’s all part of the process of creative writing. Here’s an example of character voice in my book, Haunted Haunts:
“Last summer, we was up at Nashville,” said Lee, “at Max Market. There’s this big place to park, all covered with gravel. Daddy and I was fillin’ boxes with stuff to take inside, and here come this Holsum truck, highballin’ right on up to where we was workin’. That ol’ boy hit his brakes an’ went slidin’ up by where we was. A bunch o’ gravel went all over the place an’ some of it hit Daddy’s pants an’ shoes. Burt got out of his truck lookin’ real mad, but Daddy faced him, lookin’ all calm like. Burt slammed his door and came right on up to Daddy. Then Daddy said somethin’ like, Howdy, cowboy?
“Cowboy?” said Frank.
“Yeah,” said Lee. “Daddy always called bad truck drivers cowboys, ‘specially if he seen ‘em drive real crazy like Burt done. Anyways, Burt started yelling, ‘bout how his bread got all smashed and shoved ‘round. Daddy never said nothin’. He just took off his glasses and set ‘em on the step of his cab. I was standin’ by the back of Daddy’s bread truck, so I could see his face real good. I never seed Daddy look mad or nothin’. He just stood there with his left foot a little ahead o’ t’other. I seed him make a fist with his right hand but he had it hid from Burt, behind his leg. He never said nothin’ but I could tell he was fixin’ to get ready to throw down on that ol’ boy. It was kinda like when two cats square off on each other. When, like, ya can tell one o’ them cats is fixin’ to scrap an’ that other cat just wants to get the heck on outta there. I guess Burt saw Dad was set to fight ‘cause all of a sudden like, his voice got real quiet. I couldn’t hear what he said after that. Then Burt got back in his truck and just drove off, real slow like.”
“Dang!” said Dennis. “Was he short, like Jimmy?”
“No sir!” said Lee. “Burt’s a big ol’ boy, from Amarillo, Texas. An’ that’s another reason Daddy don’t like him so much. He always says Texans is full of hot air an’ … well … I can’t say the rest o’ what Daddy says ’bout them fellers.”
Dennis was impressed. “So, Jimmy stood up to that big ol’ Texan?”
“Yessiree Bob,” said Lee. “I asked Daddy why he never said nothin’ an’ he tol’ me somethin’ like, Some fellers talk a hell of a fight. Chickens cackle ‘n’ cluck, but a rooster throws down. I ain’t no chicken.”