Thoughts on, like, voice. Or something.

Angela Chase + Jordan Catalano

Angela Chase + Jordan Catalano

So, I’m in training for this new job, right? Today is Day 3 of an 8-week session. Which, on the surface, sounds like a long time to train for a Customer Care Rep position. But the amount of info and data we have to access & interpret makes me believe this timeframe is fitting. Also, a large portion of this time will be hands-on, in-the-trenches, with coaches hovering nearby. If we newbies hit an issue we can’t deal with, we [literally] flip up a little, red mailbox flag and a coach will swoop in to bail us out.

I could definitely run this post in the direction of:
Wouldn’t it be cool to have little, red flags in every day life? We encounter some random patch of trouble, so we flip up our flag, and a hero comes swooping in to save the day?

But, instead, I’m gonna head in this direction:
My trainer has a lot of repetitious catchphrases.

I recently re-watched all 19 episodes of the My So-Called Life series from the mid 90’s. If you’ve experienced the show, then you may remember that it has a very distinct “voice”. For instance, the teen characters always seem so non-committal about most everything they say.

“I was just, like, thinking, that maybe we could hang out. Or whatever.”

“I mean, it might be fun to, like, go to the party. To try it out. Or something.”

Another recurring element which I couldn’t ignore was how everyone used whole names when referring to another character. Even though both teens in a given conversation totally, like, knew the 3rd party, they still added the last name for like, clarification. Or something.

Angela Chase
Jordan Catalano
Rayanne Graff
Rickie Vasquez
Bryan Krakow

I counted the occurrences of this phenomenon in one of the episodes: 25 times in an hour-long [Minus commercial breaks] show.

[Fun fact: The exception to this full-name-rule is, of course, “Tino”. He is the supposed leader of Jordan Catalano’s band, Frozen Embryos. He is mentioned in almost every episode, but is never seen on-screen. If he has a last name, it’s never spoken.]

At the time, I pondered my own writing and looked for my personal go-to phrases.

My trainer has me doing that again.

I’m sure some of his style/voice comes from the Official Trainer’s Training Guide. Here are some examples.
1) If anyone enters the room, like, for instance, the HR guy, a supervisor, or an employee who’s coming to share his/her work experience with us, we must clap. Before we even know who it is, we clap as they walk in. They speak, we ask questions, and then we clap again when the visitor leaves.
2) When a trainee answers a question, the trainer repeats the answer back. Every time.
3) Once the answer is repeated, the trainer follows up with a pat-on-the-back word: cool, awesome, good, sweet, nice. Every time. These words are also used to signal the completion of a given activity or module. You could set your watch by them.
4) Then there’s this one: After learning a new aspect of our positions, What questions do you have for me? Not, Does anyone have any questions about what we’ve just covered? But, What questions do you have for me? [Note: I may count the occurences today.]

These aren’t criticisms, mind you. Simply observations. And they have triggered me to analyze my own speech patterns, and any repetitious phrasing I fall back on in my writing. Not that a pattern is a bad thing. Certain identifiable ‘markers’ can go a long way towards establishing voice. The speech in My So Called Life and my training class are irrefutable proof of that.


So, those are my thoughts on such things. Or whatever. I challenge you to listen to the folks around you and see if you can pick out phrases and physical cues which make them uniquely them. Since you don’t have a little, red flag to flip up, this exercise might help when it comes time to create your next character. I mean, it might be useful. Or, something. Maybe, paying attention to real people will make the fictitious ones more solid and believable. Or, whatever.


What questions do you have for me?

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on, like, voice. Or something.

  1. Um, I so like your posts. They totally make me laugh. Thank you.

    P.S. Huge fan of “My So Called Life”, by the way if only Jordan went to my school [ big sigh]


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