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I Hear Voices in My Head
by Deborah Heal
Sometimes after reading a good book I can’t remember later whether I actually read it or watched the movie. That’s because a talented author creates word pictures in our minds. They follow the age-old “Show, Don’t Tell” rule. Avoiding most adjectives and adverbs, they choose strong verbs and specific nouns, words that come to the page prepared to work.
But consider this little story:
It was a nice day. Everyone was happy because the weather turned out to be good. Since we made the time pass by doing some interesting things, even the ride was a lot of fun. We got there at lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon having a terrific time. Although everyone was tired at the end of the day, we agreed that we’d like to do the same thing again next year.
No one would remember a book like that for a minute, because there’s no showing at all— not one piece of concrete imagery in the whole thing. It’s as vague as a Jack Handy “Fuzzy Memory” story, only without the humor. (You can read an example of his humor here.)
In order to avoid fuzzy writing, I spend considerable time imagining the characters into being before I ever begin to write a novel. I ponder each physical feature and personality trait until, like Pinocchio, they become real boys and girls—at least to me. I can hear exactly how they sound. (Yes, I have voices in my head.)
And each character is different, of course. Abby, the protagonist of my Time and Again history mystery trilogy, started out naive and a little judgmental toward Merrideth, the bratty eleven-year-old she was supposed to tutor for the summer. By the end of the story she has learned a lot about life. Her boyfriend John is not nearly as serious as she and always joking around, so I got a big kick out of him. (I am always immensely amused by what my characters say and do.)
Even the secondary and minor characters came alive in my mind: Mrs. Arnold, the salt-of-the-earth neighbor and Michael, the little boy with the speech impediment in Time and Again. The spunky octogenarian twins known as the Old Dears and Bertram White, the red-faced wife abuser in Unclaimed Legacy. Ned, the runaway slave and Brother Greenfield, the sweet-natured and wise minister in Every Hill and Mountain.
If I do my job right, the characters and story will come alive in my readers’ minds, too. Of course, there are always things that interrupt the transmission of ideas between senders and the receivers. Perfect communication will only be possible in Heaven. It’s one of the things I most look forward to. In Heaven, no one will ever misunderstand. Everyone will always “get it.” We probably won’t even need words at all.
But until then, I do the best I can to write stories that communicate well. Then when the writing is done, I publish the book, sending all my characters out into the cold, cruel world, hoping they’ll make friends with readers who will love them as much as I do. Will readers “get them”? Until and unless the book gets reviews, I really have no idea. (Read about the importance of review here.)
But I have discovered a sure-fire way of finding out: have the story turned into an audiobook!
I was so relieved and gratified that my narrator Michelle Babb “got” my Time and Again history mystery trilogy. She turned the words I had put on the page into living, breathing characters doing real actions. In some cases with minor characters, she “got it” even more than I did, interpreting the character more fully than even I saw them.
Enter the Contest Below to Win All Three Audiobooks!
You can listen to samples of Michelle’s work on Audible.com. And you authors should definitely consider having her narrate your book. And while you’re at it, ask her about editing. She edited my most recent book, Once Again, and I highly recommend her. (She’s undoubtedly reading this with red pen in hand.) So check out her editing skills, too.
That was a subtle hint that you should buy my book, Once Again: an inspirational novel of history, mystery & romance. (Now available for Kindle for only 99 cents.) It’s part of my new Rewinding Time Series, which my character Merrideth Randall insisted I write. She was such a brat in Time Again, but she managed to grow up into a nice young woman. She still has flaws, but I think you’ll like her.
Goodbye for now. I’ve got to get back to Merrideth. She’s stuck in the middle of an adventure with Brett.
Be Sweet and Tweet!
— DeborahHeal (@DeborahHeal) November 23, 2014