Many of us will recognise the experience of hearing, in our mind’s ear, the voices of people known to us. Memories of ferocious school teachers, passionate declarations of love, the everyday catchphrases of friends, and even the idiosyncratic trill of loud-mouthed celebrities – our minds are sometimes populated with a jumble of voices, each with its own distinctive auditory qualities.
So what’s it like to bring a new voice into being? And might writers – in the course of creating characters, imagined or historical – be uniquely well-placed to shed light on this?
Writers’ Inner Voices is a study being conducted by Hearing the Voice in collaboration with the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Its aim is to understand the ways in which writers and storytellers hear or imagine the voices of their characters and to explore what role this plays in the literary-creative process more broadly. 100 authors appearing at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival have completed our online questionnaire about their experience of their characters’ voices, and the preliminary results are fascinating. 70% of writers we surveyed said that they hear the voices of their characters out loud, and 57% could sense the presence of their characters in visual or other sensory modes.
During the course of the Festival itself, Dr Jenny Hodgson is conducting in-depth follow-up interviews with writers to find out more about the varied and complex ways in which they hear, experience, imagine and interact with their characters. She’ll be posting regular updates on twitter and on the Writers’ Inner Voices blog – so please do join in the conversation.
As a counterpart to the Writer’s Inner Voices project we’re also asking readers about their experiences of voices and characters. Since Saturday we’ve had nearly 1000 responses to our Readers’ Inner Voices study after it was profiled in the Guardian. and we hope to get many more over the course of the EIBF, with the ongoing events at Conversations With Ourselves and via our blogs for the Guardian. The link for the survey is https://www.survey.bris.ac.uk/durham/innervoices, please consider participating, and spread the message far and wide!