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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Development - Personality and Mental Illness and Change of Voice in a Novel

24 March 2012, Development - Personality and Mental Illness and Change of Voice in a Novel

Introduction: I realized that I need to introduce this blog a little. I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. The working title was Daemon, and this was my 21st novel. Over the last year, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel.

I'm using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I'll keep you informed along the way.

Today's Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website and select "production schedule," you will be sent to

Sometimes (rarely) character voice must change.  You may and should change character voice in these circumstances:

1.  Development of the character
2.  Mental illness
3.  Physical or mental effects
4.  Personality
5.  Seduction
6.  Subterfuge
4.  ...there may be more, I'll think of them as I write about the others.

The revelation of the character in a novel (a change of personality) many times requires a change of voice of the character just like mental or physical effects.  I will discuss some of the details of how to portray this change.  The descent into mental illness or the ascent out of mental illness requires the writer to express the character's voice as singular and unique, but changing.  For example, a character who is not ill at the beginning of the novel may act very reasonably.  The author defines their unique voice and then over chapters and with each scene, the character begins to act in ways that gradually shows the change.  A character may have an affected attitude, mannerism, or appearance that the author begins to show as repetitive as the novel progresses.  The point is not to tell the reader that the character is going crazy, but rather to reveal the change through the voice. 

This is the entire point--in a novel about the onset of a mental illness, the author should not expressly tell the readers what is happening.  The author should show the evidences and allow the reader to gradually discover what is happening.  If you look back at Aksinya, Aksinya slowly begins to descend into what her captors think is mental illness.  She sees a demon.  She appears to attempt suicide.  She tries to get needle and thread to put crosses on her clothing and does use her own blood to mark crosses on her clothes.  These actions are mistaken by her ecclesiastical and secular judges that she is insane.  The reader realizes (or thinks they realize) she is not insane but rather making intelligent choices.  I intentionally change the voice of the character for two reasons.  The first is that Aksinya does have a true change in personality.  The second is that I want the reader to not assume she is completely sane.  As I wrote in my commentary on the novel, I want the reader to question, in their own mind, the sanity of Aksinya.  I could have been more deliberate with this (like I was in Aegypt), but I didn't.

How to project the character's voice is an important tool to a writer.  I'll discuss this and the other circumstances for change of voice, tomorrow.

I'll repeat my published novel websites so you can see more examples:, and the individual novel websites:,,,,, and

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