Posted On October 5, 2016 by Print This Post

What’s in a Voice: or two sides of the same scene by Elizabeth Bemis

Please welcome ELIZABETH BEMIS – this is her debut post for Romance University. Liz is a six time Golden Heart finalist and a 2012 Golden Heart winner. Scroll to the “question” at the end of the post to play a quick writing game in the comment field and possibly win a free ebook!

Early in my writing career, I went to numerous workshops on “voice”. Voice was explained to me as that undefinable “thing” that makes you know when you’ve picked up a book by your favorite author. When you pick up a book by Douglas Adams, you won’t confuse it for a novel by George RR Martin. If handed the opening to a Julia Quinn book, no one would think, “I’ll bet this is a book by Stephanie Laurens!” Those are very obvious, dichotomous examples. Douglas Adams is funny to the point of the absurd, and George RR Martin is dark. Julia Quinn is light-hearted drawing room meet-cutes with lots of banter, while Stephanie Laurens’s heroes are the epitome of brooding sexiness.

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There’s an additional component to voice which doesn’t seem to be explored as often, and that is the voice of the characters who are experiencing a scene. Not just what they say, but what they think and how they perceive what’s going on around them.

I recently had the opportunity to be part of the FINDING CHRIS EVANS mini-series with Erin Nicholas, Lizzie Shane, Jennifer Bernard, Jennifer Chance and Erin McCarthy. The premise is this: A girl (Ellie) goes to a fortune teller (Elizabeth aka Esmerelda) who tells her, “You’ll meet and fall for a man named Chris Evans”. Of course, the fortune teller has a reason for being so specific. She’s trying to set up her nephew. Meanwhile, Ellie goes out to look for her Chris Evans and finds out, it’s a really common name. The fortune teller casts a spell of sorts, which causes Ellie to become the “Good Luck Chuck” for the non-nephew Chris Evanses (and each of them, upon meeting her, finds happily ever after with his heroine). I wrote the free prequel (in the POV of the Fortune Teller) and the final story where Ellie meets her match, and the rest of the authors wrote the stories of the other five Chris Evanses.

We agreed as a group that each of the authors would write her own “Chris Meets Ellie” scene however she wanted, and that I would take those scenes and use them as part of Ellie’s story. As a writer, it was a challenge to take those scenes written in someone else’s POV and voice and make them mine. Frankly, it was a challenge to take my Fortune Teller scene and make it Ellie’s even though I wrote both.

This is a brief example from the prequel and from first scene of Ellie’s book.
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FROM THE FORTUNE TELLER’S POV
FINDING CHRIS EVANS: THE FORTUNE TELLER EDITION

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“Place your hands at the base of the globe,” Elizabeth said.

Ellie placed her hands at the bottom of the crystal ball, and Elizabeth saw the swirling colors indicating the “fortune” was being forecast. “You will soon meet your true love,” she said. A vision of Chris as a small boy, his ready laugh, bright blue eyes, and tow-headed curls lighting up any room, formed in her own mind. “I see a tall man. A tragedy has taken away his easy laugh, but it’s still hiding in him—just waiting for the right person to help release it.”

She really felt deep in her semi-psychic bones that this was the woman meant for Chris. How could she make that happen?

Sometimes subtlety wasn’t worth the effort. “His name is Chris Evans.”

“Chris Evans,” Ellie murmured.

“Yesss…” Elizabeth pretended to gaze into the crystal ball, but was taken aback when the swirling colors coalesced into the figures of five men, each caught in a torrent whirling colored smoke and chaos as Ellie floated in front of each of them.

She blinked, jerking her gaze up…only to find Ellie staring at her.

“That is…weirdly specific,” the young woman said.

“It is, it is,” Elizabeth nodded, stifling a groan.

What have I done? She was definitely in the “messing with the universe” territory, but now the deed was done. She needed to do something to fix any trouble she’d just caused.
********
FROM ELLIE’S POV
FINDING CHRIS EVANS: THE EVER AFTER EDITION

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The gypsy lifted a crystal ball from the right side of the table, and set it down in the middle.

“Place your hands at the base of the globe,” she directed.

Ellie placed her hands at the bottom of the crystal ball and looked down into it. Not much was happening. Just a little glow.

“You will soon meet your true love,” the woman said, her voice shifting to a lower tone. “I see a tall man. A tragedy has taken away his easy laugh, but it’s still hiding in him—just waiting for the right person to help release it. His name is…” She paused dramatically and Ellie leaned forward. “…Chris Evans.”

“Chris Evans?” Ellie murmured. She didn’t know anyone by that name, but it had to be a pretty common one, right? There could be a Chris Evans in Haralson. Why not?

Ellie looked down. There was a lot of chaos and pink smoke now happening inside the crystal ball. That was a seriously cool effect.

The fortune teller seemed to notice it too. “Yes…” She said as she met Ellie’s gaze.

“That is…weirdly specific,” Ellie said, trying not to sound doubtful.

“It is, it is.”

********

In both scenes, the same thing is happening. The same dialogue, more or less the same action. However, their motivations, what they think and the way they think about it are far different.

An amazing, full-length book example of this is Julia Quinn’s THE LOST DUKE OF WYNDHAM and MR CAVENDISH, I PRESUME. The two books take place during the same period of time, and have a number of scenes in common, but because they’re being told from a different POV, you as a reader learn significantly different things.

 

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The Question As a fun exercise, I give you three lines of dialogue and two pieces of action. In the comments, use your voice to explain the dialogue and the action and write a short scenelet.

They both looked up at the wall. “Well this is a strange pickle you’ve gotten us in.”

“It’s not as bad as Dallas,” she replied.

He shook his head. “I’d forgotten about Dallas.”

My extremely unbiased four-year-old will select a random commenter in a week to receive one of my Sudden Falls books (in the ebook format of your choice).

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Bio:

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Elizabeth Bemis is a six-time Golden Heart® Finalist and 2012 Winner. Her first book, Love & Oreos was named a“Must Read” book of 2015 by USA Today, who said,

“Elizabeth Bemis makes her sassy, sexy, confetti-worthy debut with Love & Oreos, the first book in her Sudden Falls contemporary series. Bemis’ voice is humorous and sly, her characters realistically complicated, her storytelling engaging and silky smooth… The heart, heat, snark and energy in Love & Oreos make Bemis’ inaugural release a bright and buoyant win.”

When she’s not writing romance, she operates Bemis Promotions, an advertising agency for authors, fights for control of her house with her sons and various fur-bearing creatures. When she’s not in front of her computer she can occasionally be found running with her dog, training for the Little Miami Triathlon and the Flying Pig (half) Marathon.

You can find more about Elizabeth and her books at her website, elizabethbemis.com or you can like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or sign up for her newsletter.

Finding Chris Evans

In a small town in northern Minnesota, Ellie Mittelstadt goes to a psychic where she receives this prediction: if she finds a man named Chris Evans, true love will follow…

Only one problem: Even in the tiny town of Haralson, Minnesota, there are six Chris Evanses! SIX!

  • An EMT with emergency-level sex appeal…
  • A reality TV star about to get the surprise of his life…
  • A firefighter who’s smokin’ hot…
  • A bad-boy royal on the run…
  • A smoldering rock star ready to drop the mic…
  • A doctor with a heart of gold…

What follows are six delightfully romantic tales that start with Ellie meeting each new Chris Evans. But while shedoesn’t find true love (yet!), her meeting sets off a chain of events that leads the Chris Evans in each story to fall in love with a heroine all his own. Then finally, in the sixth tale, Ellie’s psychic prediction comes true in a charmingly perfect and heartwarming way. Because true love never fails!

Now’s your chance to fall in love with Chris Evans, too–six different times!

 

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10 Responses to “What’s in a Voice: or two sides of the same scene by Elizabeth Bemis”

  1. I’m such a sucker for writing challenges like these. 🙂 Here we go…

    They both looked up at the wall. A wall that hadn’t been there on any of the schematics. “Well this is a strange pickle you’ve gotten us in.”

    The dry criticism in his voice made her hackles rise. Okay, yes, it had been her job to plan the escape route, but did he have to be such a superior prick about it? He wasn’t exactly perfect. “It’s not as bad as Dallas,” she replied, as sirens began to wail in the distance.

    This might be her screw up, but Dallas had been all on him.

    He shook his head. “I’d forgotten about Dallas.”

    “Uh huh.” Trust him to selectively “forget” anything that interfered with his flawless reputation.

    Posted by Lizzie Shane | October 5, 2016, 10:19 am
    • Dang, Lizzie – you’ve set the bar high. I’ve been wracking my brains to come up with something. Too bad I don’t drink coffee. I think caffeine might help!

      Liz (I should probably say “Elizabeth” but I’ve got “Liz” stuck in my head) – Thanks for a great post. I love your examples and I’m looking forward to reading the Chris Evans’ books. Any chance they’ll be out in paperback? I killed my Nook. 🙁

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 5, 2016, 11:16 am
  2. They both looked up at the wall. It wasn’t the wall, so much, as the window in the middle of it. The window that had been covered by a blind when they started getting cozy in the alley. The window that was now smeared by the faces of thirty-odd kids, all pushing for the best view of their shenanigans. They must have been about twelve. Sh…oot. He remembered twelve.

    “Well this is a strange pickle you’ve gotten us in.”

    Any minute now a disgruntled teacher would come around the corner, armed with rulers and erasers and righteous fury. At least it wasn’t a church school. Memories of the nuns who’d tried to rein in his childish antics could still give him chills.

    He shook off the image. Those uncomfortable memories, and the giggling hordes pressing against the glass, couldn’t make him regret the events of the last five minutes.

    “It’s not as bad as Dallas,” she replied.

    She had a point. In Dallas, the staff of a fancy hotel had called the cops. Who knew hotel elevators had cameras? Video cameras, yet. But, hey, that was a year ago. Maybe more.

    He shook his head. “I’d forgotten about Dallas.”

    The distinctive, multi-octave voice of a puberty-stricken boy reached them through the glass. “Get a room!”

    He shrugged, tried to keep his face bland. If he grinned a little, who could blame him? Lack of self-control had turned out to be his favorite trait in a woman. In THIS woman, anyway.

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 5, 2016, 12:17 pm
  3. “Brevity is the soul of…” something-or-other. Oh well!!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 5, 2016, 12:22 pm
  4. They both looked up at the stone wall, part of the lavish entrance surrounding the Vanderbilt-like estate. Already an alarm sounded and she swore she heard distant barking. Given her luck lately, the owner had already released the hounds.

    “Well, well. This is a strange pickle you’ve gotten us in.” He was grinning, as he tended to do whenever she was furious and unraveling.

    She glanced around at the leafy green hedge. Maybe they could hide. Yeah, right. As if she and a six-foot-four Brutus Maximus could fit in that sliver of space. Besides. There were webs galore. Spiders probably ran a hotel under there.

    ”It’s not as bad as Dallas,” she replied, dusting her hands.

    He shook his head. “I’d forgotten about Dallas. Then again . . . “ His eyes went half-lidded and a slow smile spread across his lips. “How could I ever forget Dallas?”

    Posted by Cheryl | October 5, 2016, 1:08 pm
  5. Cheryl – You and Lizzie have fabulous voices! I already want to read more.

    I’d love to see what directions we can take this. Anyone else ready to dive in with a scene-let? C’mon, share your voice with us!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 5, 2016, 2:56 pm
  6. Becke, thank you for encouraging more dialogue and participation! We need more kindness like yours in the world. Many blessings.

    Posted by Cheryl | October 6, 2016, 8:24 am
  7. Liz, this is a great post! You did such a fabulous job on Ellie’s POV in the book 🙂

    Okay, here goes…

    They both looked up at the wall. The wall with the huge crack now running down the middle of it.

    “Well this is a strange pickle you’ve gotten us in.”

    She should be annoyed by his sarcastic tone and the accusation but… yeah, okay, this was her fault. Again. But what were the chances that they’d be in the same tiny room, alone, during an earthquake, twice in one lifetime?

    “It’s not as bad as Dallas,” she replied. That had been a tornado and they’d been stuck together for nearly fourteen hours before being rescued. The last earthquake had trapped them for only four hours.

    He shook his head. “I’d forgotten about Dallas.”

    She knew he hadn’t forgotten about Dallas. Or any of the other disasters they’d covered together for the network. But she did know that he would never acknowledge how much Dallas had changed things between them.

    lol! That was fun! Thanks Liz! 😀

    Posted by Erin Nicholas | October 6, 2016, 11:43 am

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