The Voices in my Head

Tony Jay is an English actor, best known for his voice acting in various cartoons and video games. He's played many roles, but it was always his villains I loved. His smooth, British baritone lent an air of danger and superiority to characters like Shere Khan (though not the one in the original Jungle Book) and Chairface Chippendale.

Now you may have no idea what I'm talking about. You may never have seen Tale Spin or The Tick. Odds are good you've never played Fallout, Torment, or Icewind Dale either, all of which starred villains voiced by the late Tony Jay.

But for me, these were some of my favorite stories, and now it's presenting an odd sort of problem. See, the other day I discovered that no matter who my villain is, no matter how well I know them or plan their background and character or even pretend to talk like them - when I sit down to write the dialogue of that villain I involuntarily write the voice of Tony Jay.

Like Arad, the nigh-omnipotent tyrant of Travelers. In my head, he speaks with Tony Jay's voice. Now I didn't realize this at the time because the voice fit. Arad is a dangerous being who considers himself superior to, literally, everybody. So I thought it was just Arad's voice.

But then the other day, I was trying to write Jacobin Savage, the cruel pirate captain from Azrael's Curse (slash Air Pirates). The pirates in this world tend to speak like something between the Irishman from Braveheart and Pirates' Captain Barbosa - fast and flippant, with heavy use of slang and light use of grammar. Savage was supposed to be no different, but when I tried to write his dialogue he sounded less like Captain Barbosa and more like Commodore Norrington.

The difference is relatively subtle on the page, I suppose. For example, Tony Jay's Savage might say, "You want to change the world, isn't that it? You want to rid it of folks like the Imperium, and you think by hitting military targets instead of random merchants, you might do that. What you don't see is that you're just scratching an itch."

But Savage's words need to be more like, "You want to change the world, aye? Want to rid it of the Imperium, and you reck you can do that by hitting Navy marks 'stead of chance merchers. But you're just scratching an itch."

Subtle differences. And for all I know they both sound like Alan Rickman in your head. But it's hard when I want Savage to have a unique voice, and all that comes out is Tony Jay.

So thank you, Tony, for portraying such memorable villains that I can no longer imagine evil in any other voice. You've simultaneously enriched and ruined my life. Well done.


MattyDub said...

I was going to mention Rickman. "Because it's dull you twit. It'll hurt more." He's the best.

Natalie Whipple said...

Ha, that's interesting. My "villains" have all been so different, I haven't had this problem yet. And they tend to blur the good/bad line, so a lot of the times they "look" first.