5 things your character can’t do while speaking
- Choke. Just think about it, seriously. Think about what choking is and imagine speaking while it’s happening. That would fuckin’ hurt, man.
- Hiss. Look, it’s just not possible, okay? No matter how “evil” you want your character to seem.
- Snarl. Animals snarls. The Beast from Beauty and the Beast snarls. The Hulk snarls. You know who doesn’t snarl? PEOPLE WHEN THEY’RE SPEAKING.
- Shriek. Come on, 99% of the time, “shriek” is not the word you want.Let’s face it: if you put an exclamation point at the end of the sentence, your reader gets the picture. Don’t bring to mind banshees and screaming toddlers.
- Sneer. I’m not even going to bother explaining this one. “SNEER” ISN’T EVEN A SOUND.
Choked is not meant to be taken literally, an obstruction in the throat. It means they’re having difficultly speaking, they’re forcing the words out with difficulty. Often used when the character is convulsed in tears or laughter.
Hiss is a low, threatening whisper. Raw, guttural, vicious. It is NOT a literal hiss like an animal, it is a tone of voice that serves the same function. Someone will hiss that they’re going to cut your throat- a message from one person to the other.
Snarl is the same kind of thing. Not literal, it’s a tone of voice that serves the same function. It’s raw and gutteral like a hiss, but more savage than vicious. It’s loud, it’s showy, it’s intimidating. It’s very alpha male, big man, look at how fucking dangerous I am. I’ll take ALL of you on. Even if they’re snarling at one person in particular, nobody better back them up or they’re gonna get fucked up too.
Shriek. Come on, seriously? We’ve all heard people shriek either in fear or outrage. High pitched, loud, out of control, feminine. Men can shriek, but it’s funny and emasculating. Think angry italian women throwing pots and pans or ladies on tables who just saw a mouse.
Sneering is contempt whether it’s a facial expression or a tone of voice or both. There are a hundred different ways to sneer with your voice, but it all adds up to the same thing.
How descriptive words work 101
Based on the original list, you could have added laugh, grin, cackle, sob and a whole host of other words used to describe emotion. Writing (and reading) gets boring when you write “he said” “she said” “they said” over and over. Mix it up, add some emotion. You want someone to look and sound really evil and nasty, then use sneer. Want to convey that someone is incredibly happy, then use grin. Convey emotion to the reader. Readers are smart, they’ll understand what you’re getting at. Even if the writer uses the phrase “a smile in their voice” when the characters face may be covered. Because when you think about it, we know what a person may be feeling when they speak just by their tone.
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