Posts Tagged ‘friends’

Reading Aloud 2: Character voices

This entry is part 2 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

The human voice is very flexible and we’ll look at the ways you can manipulate it. Remember though, that the voice uses muscle and you can strain it just as easily as an ankle. Pay attention and stop if anything hurts.

Your basic tools are Pitch, Placement, Pacing, Accent and Attitude.
Pitch is fairly self-explanatory. To check your range, hum from your highest to your lowest note. Of that, you probably mostly use the middle when speaking. While it can help color a character, it isn’t a good idea to rely on pitch alone to distinguish between characters, simply because you use more than one note while speaking.


There are several resonators which affect the tone of the voice. Put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your nose. Now hum through your range again. As you do, you’ll feel your chest vibrate at the low end and your nose vibrate in the upper middle. These are both resonators.

The facial mask has several other resonating cavities, which you mostly notice with a sinus infection. Ever wonder why you sound nasally with a cold?

You can move the voice from the front of the mouth to the back of the throat. Broadly speaking Russian tends to be at the back of the mouth while British English tends to be very forward.

I will now attempt to explain how to do this without being able to demonstrate. (Oy. Why did I think this was a good plan.) Okay, start with the nasal resonator, because it’s easiest to find.
-Hold your nose, say, “Nnnnnn” and try to get your nose to really buzz.
-Now remove your hand and try to talk, keeping your voice as nasally as possible. Use the phrase, “What did you say?” as your experimental phrase.
-Try adjusting the pitch while keeping the nasality.
A little bit of nasality can be used to make a “brighter” sound.

Next we’ll move to the back of the throat. Open your mouth in a yawn. Let your soft palate rise. Try to talk. Does it feel like your voice is at the back of your mouth? Again, play with pitch. Placing your voice at the back of your throat can make a “darker” sound.

Next, we’re going to move a series of consonants from the back of the mouth to the front. As you do this, pay attention to where your voice feels like it is during the “aaaah” portion of each consonant sequence. It will be subtle.
The series runs like this. Guh, guh, guh, guh, Gaaaah, Kuh, kuh, kuh, kuh, kaah, (I’m not going to write them all out, I’ll give you the consonants and you can figure out the pattern.) G, K, D, T, B, P.
Reverse it, moving from Puh to Guh.
Try saying our test phrase, “What did you say?” at each “location” in the mouth.

Roughly, and very loosely, that’s placement. I’ll talk about other aspects of placement when I discuss how to create specific types of voices like children and older people.

Moving on.


This covers everything from how quickly a character speaks to the types of rhythms they use. Is their voice quick, but fluid or is it staccatto. Slow and halting, or does it drawl?

Note: Generally speaking, always speak slower than you think you should when reading.


You can tell on the phone if someone is smiling, right? Technically, it’s a combination of the things we’ve already talked about, but fundamentally it’s about attitude. If you know your character, you’ll know how they speak.
Take the phrase, “What did you say?” Say it as if you are angry. Now, curious. Disbelieving? Great. Now say it like you’re a parent and a kid has just talked back to you. That is attitude. Attitude is your friend.


Chances are, this won’t be something you need to deal with. If you do have a character who has an accent for God’s sake, make sure you can do it convincingly. There’s nothing worse than hearing someone butcher an accent, it will destroy the credibility of your story faster than you can say “Run fer the hills.” There are a lot of tapes that deal with learning accents for actors. If you’re going to do it, do it right.

So, those are the basic tools. The nice thing about character voices is that you can be fairly subtle. Most of the time the Attitude and Pace will be enough. If you can affect Placement, that’s even better. What you are looking for is a voice that is distinct from the other voices and appropriate to the character. Of course, which of these tricks you use for each voice depends on the character for whom you are speaking.

Still, there are some basic types of voices, so I’ll talk about how to make a child’s voice as an example, and then later talk about aging voices and cross-gender voicing. A lot of this will be useful for other voice types.

The natural impulse for people is to shoot up into falsetto for kids’ voices. The trouble is that it alters the placement of your voice so much that it sounds ridiculous.

In singing one speaks of the Chest Voice, Middle Voice, Head Voice and Falsetto. Each of these resonates in a different place. Most people speak with their chest and middle voices–this includes children. So when you raise your voice too high to match a child’s pitch you move it into a different place.

The human voice uses a number of different muscles to generate sound. Generally speaking, the longer someone’s neck is the deeper their voice will be. So a child, with a short neck is also going to have a higher voice. In addition to the changes that happen at puberty, this has a huge impact on the pitch you hear.

That said, we respond tone as much as pitch. So to make a child’s voice, raise your pitch a little, but don’t try to do a literal match with kid.

The next thing is resonance. There are different resonating cavities that simply don’t develop until you’re an adult. To make a child’s voice you need to kill the resonance in your voice. Part of that happens by raising up to a head voice, which gets you away from your chest resonating cavity. Next, keep your soft palate down. And now try to make certain that you aren’t resonating in your nose, which you can do by pinching your nose. (Remember those exercises?)

You also need to add a tiny bit of aspiration. Aspiration is what happens when you allow more air to pass through your throat than is needed to produce sound. Remember the scene in My Fair Lady when Eliza is learning to pronounce her Hs? An H is an aspirated sound. People will also say something sounds “breathy” Think of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday.” A little bit of aspiration helps make the voice sound less supported and younger.

Finally there’s the pronunciation. This is going to change depending on how young your child is, but in the under-10 camp things to listen for are more pronounced dipthongs and softer consonants.

Great, but what if there’s a piece with more than one kid? Remember Attitude and Pace. You can also still adjust placement by making one voice more or less nasal. Or having a voice that is breathier than the others. Again, with this or any character voice you don’t need to push far to make it distinctive.

With all voices, the main thing to focus on is telling the story, if a character voice prevents you from conveying emotion don’t use it.

Next week, I’ll talk about narrating.

Vín og skel

Steve and I went to Vín og skel for lunch today. I’d been hearing about this restaurant from friends and am pleased to report that the food is very good. I ordered the two course lunch special. Turnip soup, that even my meat-and-potatoes brother liked. Then redfish served over a couscous pilaf, with a delightful trio of vegetables dishes, in individual tiny bowls; carmelized onions, pan fried potatoes, and sauteed rutabega and butternut squash. Very good, nice presentation and excellent service.

After that, we headed off to work. Steve dropped me off at work and headed out to explore the town.

Not a journal.

Found this on Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Not a journal.

13 – In 20 Epics there is some rain. We sold all the copies we had at Readercon. It was an epic job of salespersonship by interns, friends, us, others. Finding the epically designed books was a long sordid tale of hidden icons, misdirection, and dead letter offices which was only concluded when Mary “I live in Iceland” Robinette “Shimmer” Kowal tracked them down far into the Labyrinth past the Steaming Kitchens of Despair. The books sold grandly, richly, with bread and cheese and some ale. They found spots by the fire in inns, they were purchased by plucky, heartfelt, surprisingly good looking kids who in a certain light looked like writers. The books were prizes, ill-gotten gains, kept in saddlebags, used as hats, ripped in two and kept by distance-separated lovers. There are at least twenty epics in the book but you only have to buy one. Lulu. Powells.

Save Talebones!

Clearly, working with Shimmer, I’m a big believer in the power of small press magazines. So when I see Talebones, one of the most respected small press magazines put out a cry for help, I’m going to post about it. I saw this over at Nightshade Books.

Dear Family, Friends, Peers, Acquaintances:

Talebones has been a part of our lives for almost 11 years now. We have enjoyed every minute of putting all 33 issues together for our readers. It has truly been a labor of love. Most of the time that labor has cost us money, and now, because the amount of money we can put into the magazine has dwindled and, for whatever reason, subscriptions and renewals have not been as strong as we had hoped over the past year, we figure we may have to close down the magazine.

A couple of days ago, it was actually a final decision. “That’s it, there’s no way can we keep going.” There were tears. A few VIPs we mentioned it to asked us to reconsider. So we took a step back and decided: We will issue renewal notices as usual, but put an extra strong plea in there about this. And then we will send a more detailed email to everyone in our email address book who might have an interest. Based on what renewals come in over the next month, based on the response to this email, we will see if Talebones can continue on past 2006. Issue #33 is already in its final preparation stage. With our decision to make this final stab at keeping things going came the decision to at least have an issue #34, to be published in November of December. We will make a determination then if it is to be the last or not.

If you’ve subscribed to our magazine before, if you’ve never subscribed, but maybe sent us stories (or had stories published by us), or have wished us well with our little venture, we hope you’ll consider helping out. (We didn’t go through our files to know which of you are current subscribers and pull you off this email list, so forgive us if you’re already subscribers in good standing. If nothing else, we wanted you to know what was up.) At this point, even a single issue copy of our upcoming issue #33 will help. (We’ve put the order form/info up on our website early.) We have Paypal ready to go if you’d like to go that route. Or you can send money order or check payable to Talebones to our physical address at 5203 Quincy Ave SE; Auburn, WA 98092. (Rates on the website.) Or you can ignore this, delete this, or, do whatever you like. It won’t change the way we feel about ANY of you. We just thought we’d do something we’ve never done in over a decade of publishing the magazine: beg! J

That’s our sermon. Thanks for your support. Regardless of what happens to the magazine, never fear: Talebones and Fairwood Press will continue to have a presence in the SF world.

Patrick & Honna Swenson

I bought a copy and I live in Iceland. What about you?

Happy Fourth of July!

Alberta Cooperative GroceryTo celebrate, I thought I would share some pictures of my neighborhood back home. A friend took these a few days ago and sent them to me, I think as a way to tempt me back to Portland, OR. This is the cooperative organic grocery store that is three doors from our house. I miss being able to walk down, in the middle of cooking, to get whatever ingredient I had forgotten. I miss the Reed’s Ginger Ice Cream that they have and the beautiful seasonal produce.

My Front Porch
Here is our front porch, looking south. We never spent much time on the porch, because our street is on a bus line and faces west. In the evenings, after the sunset and I wanted to cool off, I would sometimes sit on the porch and write. I do miss walking out the door and seeing our roses. We could hear the fireworks downtown from the porch on the fourth, but not see them. But, upstairs, on the landing, we could see the fireworks in Vancouver. There was just space between the big cedar tree and our neighbor’s house.

Purple Smoke Bush And here is the view that I would see on my way home in the summer. Eve convinced me to buy the purple smoke bush, knowing that it would go beautifully with the roses that were already in the yard. You can’t see it, but over to the right are some wine barrels from Bethel Heights which we planted strawberries in. There are few things better than fresh strawberries, picked and eaten in the warm sun.

Elemental, my dear Watson

After Steve, Lee and I met up, we went to the Long Acre pub to meet Stel Pavlou. We had a nice lunch and were joined by Stel’s friend James. Afterwards, we all followed Steve to Forbidden Planet for the booksigning of Elemental

ElementalI don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. I had no idea that a place like Forbidden Planet existed. It’s a store dedicated to science fiction, fantasy, horror and “cult entertainment”. They’ve got graphic novels, anime, manga, videos of every SF show ever made…astounding. In the midst of the SF section, they had set up a table with a pile of books for Steve, Lee, and Stel to sign. They were joined by Michael Marshall Smith, one of the other authors in the Elemental anthology. For an hour they signed books and chatted with customers.

And then there was Liam. Picture a little boy, very slight, about nine years old. Now put him in a Jedi cloak and give him a lightsabre. Further, give him no parental supervision and free range. He understood that the four people at the table were some sort of celebrity and that things signed by them were more valuable, so he brought them all manner of things to sign, none of which had anything to do with Elemental. They were remarkably gracious and Liam did break up the monotony of the signing, I’m sure.

I spent money on books. I bought a copy of Elemental , of course, as well as Stel’s Gene, Tobias Buckell’s Crystal Rain, Steve’s Inheritance, and the Doctor Who short story anthology Short Trips: Past Tense. Whew. That’s a lot of reading material.

After the signing, everyone except Michael Marshall Smith went to another pub, which I’ve forgotten the name of, and met up with Ian Farrington (editor of the Dr. Who anthology I had purchased), Simon Guerrier, Joseph Lidster (two of the authors in it) and Lizzie, a voice actor for Dr. Who as well as one of the anthology authors. We geeked out on Dr. Who for a while, which was very satisfying for me.

I also indulged in a pint of Cider, which you can’t get in Iceland. Mmmm….

Then we were off to Woodlands, although by this point the group had dwindled to just Steve, Lee, Stel and me. This was a phenomonal vegetarian Indian restaraunt that Steve had recommended. It was just around the corner from his dad’s office, so Steve just asked the chef to send out a variety of food for us. All of it was exquisite. I highly recommend this place next time you are in London.

After far too much food, we all waddled back to our various accomodations. To my surprise, the dorm room in the hostel was clean. Only two bunks showed signs of residents, although neither one was in when I got back. I got into bed and collapsed, satisfied with the day.

Later, I discovered that everyone had moved out except for the two who snored.

In the morning, I packed my bags and headed to Steve and Lee’s hotel. While the hostel was fine for sleeping (aside from snoring boys) the showers were so awful as to be almost unusable. Each shower had a single thin stream of water about the width of my little finger. There was no way to adjust the temperature. There was also no way I was going to be able to wash my hair in it. Saturday, I just didn’t wash my hair, and counted on product to see me through the day, but Sunday, Steve and Lee said I could use theirs. Ah, heaven.

Once I was clean and presentable, we went out for sightseeing. First stop, 221B Baker Street for the Sherlock Holmes museum. This was interesting because they treat it as if Holmes and Watson were real people so the whole thing is laid out as if it were really their flats. I don’t think it gives me anymore insight into the stories, but it does make me revise my idea of room size. The rooms were tiny, tiny, tiny.

Then it was off to Whitechapel to look at the narrow streets where Jack the Ripper dwelled.

And then it was time for tea. We elected to go back to their hotel and have tea there. I so love clotted cream.

And that was the last of my London adventures. I caught the train back to the airport, and now I’m home.

Emily’s birthday

This is my friend Emily. She’s an amazing puppeteer and a good friend. Today is her birthday, hopefully we’ll go out to celebrate tonight

Happy Mother’s Day!

A very happy Mother’s day to both our mothers.

I’ll have to admit that, being in Iceland, this day snuck up on me because they don’t celebrate it on the same day. We were leaving to go snorkeling and one of the American’s said, “Happy Mother’s Day!” to her mom. My heart sank.

Rob and I looked at each other and he said, “I don’t suppose you ordered flowers this year?”

No. I didn’t.

So, this is a public apology for being a neglectful daughter. We’ll do better next year. And just wait until you come to visit! We’ll treat you so well…all of your friends will be jealous.

Elemental: The Tsunami Relief Anthology

Elemental: The Tsunami Relief Anthology

In the winter of 2005, after the horrifying natural disaster of the tsunami in Southeast Asia, Steven Savile and Alethea Kontis joined forces to raise money to help the distressed survivors and have created Elemental. They solicited SF and fantasy stories, all new and never published elsewhere, from many of the top writers in the genres today, and received immediate responses in the form of the excellent stories here in this book.

Besides being an excellent cause, and good writing, it was also edited by friends of mine. I can recommend purchasing this book for multiple reasons.


Things on set have been very busy and while Dean was here I didn’t want to update my journal in the evenings. We are between company right now, although I just heard that our friend Wayne will be coming to visit us soon and that Rob’s folks will follow after that. I’m looking forward to seeing all of them. At this rate we’ll have out-of-town guests about every two to three weeks but, after Rob’s parents’ vist, we don’t have anyone else scheduled. C’mon people, it’s time to start booking those plane tickets.

No trash

For the first time in what feels like weeks, I have not manipulated any trash. I did live hands today for several scenes and am fairly tired.

Rob’s college roomate and good friend, Dean, is out visiting us. He’s a lot of fun. We went to the rotating restaurant on the top of the Pearl. How was the meal? It rotated. We’ve decided that next time we’ve got guests, we’ll take them to the bar at the rotating restaurant and have dinner elsewhere.

Catching up on the last couple of days

Monday, April 17th, we stayed with Tóti and his family. His wife, Hannahlið, made a fantastic vegetarian meal, which was a really pleasant surprise. After dinner, Rob and Tóti ran some errands and I stayed behind to teach Marsibel (their daughter) how to make a puppet. She’s been out of school with a cold and then the holiday so she was really bored. The exciting part of this is that she’s seven and doesn’t speak english yet. That’s right, I taught puppet building in Icelandic. And mime. She was really good about figuring out what I meant and helping me learn new words. Hannahlið was standing by, but didn’t need to help as much as either of us thought she would.

Dog friendsDog friendsThe funniest part about the visit was the reaction of their very large dog to Audrey. Their dog was horribly jealous and tried to sleep in Audrey’s little basket. Have you ever seen anything so ridiculous?

So on Tuesday, April 18th we left Tóti’s house and met Bernd, then went for coffee at Bláa Kannan (the blue pot). Then Rob and I took Audrey for a walk at the Akureyri Botanical Gardens, which were completely covered in snow. Someone had gone through the park before us, leaving a single trail of footprints. Audrey bounded between the footprints like some kind of snow porpoise.
After stocking up on groceries for the road, we went to Bernd’s for coffee. Bernd and his family live in a valley outside of Dalvík, north of Akureyri. Jodi, Sarah, Julie and Sam met up with us there and we had a grand time talking about travels and puppetry. Just in case you don’t remember, Bernd Ogrodnik is my friend who did Strings (Go watch the trailer) and he has a number of the puppets at his place. He also has a fantastic workshop that is the envy of every puppeteer who has seen it.

Jodi, Sarah, Julie and Sam continued on their way while Rob and I stayed around for the night. Great conversations with Bernd, his wife Hildur and his intern Ava. It was a lot of fun.

On Wednesday, April 19th, we planned to drive up to the northern most part of Iceland but that plan changed. Bernd is working on a new show and as we were walking to the car he asked if I wouldn’t mind ducking into the workshop (Seen from above in this photo) and showing him some fast connections for shadow puppets. Well…you get two enthusiastic puppeteers in a room and the conversation will quickly become more involved. We went through the connection pretty fast and then moved on to a story issue and some other concerns he was having with his new show. Rob went for a hike with Audrey but when he came back, Bernd, Ava and I were still working. We wound up staying through lunch and leaving around five o’clock.

At that point we revised our plans and drove straight to Egillstaðir where we stayed at Gistihús Olgu. Road 1 was long and wild. I won’t try to describe it, but will just give you a collection of photos. Not all of these are from the drive to Egilsstaðir.

On Thursday, April 20th, we got up and began our drive around the southern part of Iceland. We had planned to stay at Skalafell, but realized when we reached the glacial lagoon, that it was still early in the day. We had driven to Skaftafell when Eve was here, so we’d be seeing landscapes that we had seen before. Rather than staying we decided to head back to Reykjavík and have an extra day at home.

And here we are.

Friends in Akureyri

Monday and Tuesday nights are the two that I’m most likely to have internet access because we’re staying with Tóti, our puppet wrangler. With luck we’ll also visit my friend Bernd who lives just outside of Akureyri.


This kind of day is the hardest of all. Thor and I came in at 9:00 today because his character was in a scene at the beginning of the day. The other puppeteers were on standby and arrived at 11:00, but we still hadn’t shot a puppet scene yet. In fact, none of us were used until 6:30 and the end of the work day is 7:00 pm. So although I got some good work done on a website I’m designing for a friend, my day was otherwise totally dull.

After work a group of us went out for a girl’s night out. We saw the new movie version of The Producers and then went to Enrico’s for soup and a glass of wine.