Fiction

Voice: An Exercise

Playwriting Exercises - CREATIVE CUP OF TEA

What does voice mean? What is the voice? Before trying to answer this question, Professor Musgrave wanted us to do an exercise that required a slow development. It started with us writing a list of feelings and emotions.

  • Rage
  • Love
  • Hatred
  • Sorrow/Pain
  • Excitement
  • Joy
  • Sadness
  • Embarassment
  • Affection
  • Fear
  • Anxiety

He then wanted us to choose one. I chose rage. Then, he wanted us to write ten words or sentences that could express that feeling.

  • Cursing
  • Clenched teeth/fists
  • Shaking
  • Shouting/screaming
  • Crying
  • Violence
  • Feeling betrayed/insulted
  • Banging a fist on the table/wall
  • Throwing stuff
  • Anger

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Write a very short monologue using only five of these words.

Whatever. I can curse, clench my teeth, shout or cry. I was betrayed. And no curse and no shout and no cry can make up for it.

How do we establish a sense of voice in drama? Is it different from fiction prose? Professor Musgrave wanted us to write some short monologues on the theme of love.

  1. The person who is doing this monologue is precise, she is very clear and speaks with very short sentences, she thinks it is very important to be exact.

Thi is the first time. I mean, of course there have been times before. I fancied a guy at school. I used to pass in front of his classrom. I wanted to see if he was there. But this is the first time. The first time I truly fall in love and I can’t get it. I can’t explain it. It’s the first time. I just sit at the table and can’t manage to draw a scheme that eventually will help me solve the problem.

2. The person is keen to make herself heard, she doesn’t use many full stops, she goes on and on until she almost strangles on her own words.

So whenever he looks at me I feel like my heart would melt as butter on a bloody slice of bread and whenever he speaks to me I get as hot as if that slice was immerged into a bowl of steamy soup, the ones that you eat on those winter nights when everyone’s at home and the sky is thundering and everything outside doesn’t really matter, it’s just you and how hot your soup is as it touches your mouth, your throat, your stomach.

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3. This person cannot stick to the point. Always on the theme of love. 

You remember that time when I told your mother I would never ever ask you to marry me because I think marriage is something that only fascists and middle class assholes do nowadays, and she told me that I was the worst boyfriend her daughter would ever have… which reminds me of that time that you told me I was the worst boyfriend anyone could have because I threw a banana at the bride when she came out of the church and…

4. This monologue is not about the theme of love. It’s about war. And the character speaks as a muddy pond.

History books say a lot of bullshit about the war… Courage, honor, strategy. But I, only I know that war is just made of muddy holes where burying your mates’ corpses. The splashing of feet on the blood. Trapping into someone else’s insides scattered on the wet, stinky ground. Slipping and falling in an endless puddle of death.

5. The theme is war again. The character is angry, he’s telling someone off.

I know your problem. You feel like you’re useless. I get your point. The problem is not that you don’t go out much, you don’t get high standards at your exams or that girls don’t message you back on that stupid cellphone or whatever it’s called. The point is that you don’t know what real problems are! You don’t have a purpose! Have you evern buried your stupid friends after one of your evenings at the pub? Have you ever wondered what is it like to face death every day, when you were lying on your bed laughing at some Youtube shitty videos?

This interesting exercise, made of several different parts, made me realise that voice is something very difficult to create and to care for. What is my voice? I think that my voice. when I write plays or fiction, is ironical, with a simple and direct language, sometimes punchy, with a lot of curse. It comes from my readings and influences. But what is voice? Is it the way in which the character’s thoughts are exposed and expressed? What is the difference between voice and style? I need to think more about this matter.

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