Using Text-To-Speech programs to Develop Characters
I tend to talk to myself. Some people like to call it “thinking out loud” but I won’t deny it; myself and I have some great conversations, and sometimes I’m a really great sounding board. But not always. Sometimes I just wish I had someone else who was just as passionate about and interested in my developing manuscript as I am, and could answer me every time I asked something like, “Okay, how does this sound,” or “Does that really sound like something this character would say?” And sometimes I just need other-me to forget they’ve written anything, and read it with fresh eyes. I’m not ready for beta readers, but I need some new insight. How can I cleanse my palate a little bit and get a new perspective on my characters, or on my work as a whole?
Try online Text-To-Speech (TTS) readers. It’s a tactic I’ve found enlightening, not to mention pretty entertaining. My main character is male, so I worry sometimes about whether or not he sounds masculine enough. Running his lines through TTS programs have helped me realize which lines really work and which need tweaking. When I can hear him speak his lines, I get a better feel for his personality, and how he might actually phrase his thoughts.
Here are few helpful TTS exercises you might try:
-Run whatever chapter you’re working on in a UK accent (or an American accent if you’re from the UK). Hearing it so differently from what I hear in my head really puts a new spin on the words and helps me pick up on little things, working and non, that I normally skip over. Plus it just sounds so fancy.
-Try lines for each character in different voices until you find one that is closest to how you think they probably sound. You may be surprised, and learn something something new about their personality.
-Create audio files for each line in a dialogue in each character’s voice, and play them back in order. You will actually hear your characters converse, which is amazing, but you’ll also be able to gauge whether each character is speaking as he or she would.
-If you’re a woman, have a man read your book out loud, and vice versa. It might help broaden your perspective to hear how it sounds to someone who isn’t you.
-Instead of reading a couple paragraphs back before you pick up writing or rewriting for the day, try playing those paragraphs out loud. You never know what ideas might flare up.
Although TTS programs have come a long way since the MagicSpell wizard used to read your ICQ messages to you, keep in mind that a computer still doesn’t sound like a fully-produced audiobook. It will still sound somewhat robotic, with incorrect cadance and strange emphases. Do your best to listen past the weirdness!
Below are a few free online TTS readers to try out:
http://ttsreader.com/ No character limit, US English is female, and UK English is Male. I like the UK English, and I like this reader because it’s quick and responsive.
http://www.fromtexttospeech.com/ This is one where you have the option to download seperate files for each line. Also no character limit, and several different voices, including an Indian accent.
https://acapela-box.com/AcaBox/index.php This has the most choices and it’s wonderful for hearing lines from diverse characters! In US English you can hear children’s voices, a teenager (Scott), an old man, a Texan guy (Michah), a child with an Hispanic accent (Emilio), a child who sounds like she’s from France or something (Valeria), a sad guy, a super happy guy, and yes, even a Yoda voice, with which I may or may not have spent my evening playing. Warn you I must: get distracted, you will. There are also several other choices under British, Scottish, Australian, and Indian English. If your character is from another country, select any language (Russian, Dutch, German, Japanese, etc etc) and the voice will read your English text with a thick accent. You can’t download for free from here, but you can listen online.
Do you have any readers you love, or any other methods for seeing your work with fresh eyes? I’d love to hear them!
Check out Taryn's books:The Bear, The Box and the Boy (also available in bilingual English/Spanish, Russian, or Chinese) http://amzn.com/1502493136
The Girl Who Knew She Was a Princess http://amzn.com/1503321916
Follow her on Twitter: @Skipper_Bay