When a dangerous or evil person talks, make their dialogue short and to the point. The tighter their speech, the more intelligent and threatening it becomes. Wordy waffling would dilute the effect.
To give your reader a sense of foreboding, a creepy feeling or a distinct chill, describe what the villain’s voice sounds like. Is it high-pitched or deep, resonant or raspy?
Similes (comparing the voice to another sound) work well, especially if the comparison is something dangerous from the point-of-view character’s range of experience. Does it remind the PoV of wind howling in a chimney, grinding metal, a strict teacher, a hypnotist, an Alsatian’s growl or an unoiled hinge?
You can use these phrases:
His voice sounded like …
His voice reminded her of …
Her voice had the … of a …
He spoke in the tone of a …
Her voice held a note of …
… swung in her voice.
… his voice laden with …
Here are examples from my own fiction (of different genres), describing dangerous characters. Please don’t copy these sentences, but you may find them inspiring for your own ideas.
His voice had the low-humming hiss of a wasp hovering over rotting fruit.
He spoke with the sonorous tone of a satisfied customer.
His voice softened to the texture of rubber.
He intoned an invocation of the Red Goddess, his voice deep and resonant like that of the solo baritone in Kathy’s church choir.
His voice had a sharp edge. (Druid Stones)
…he assured her, using the same tone as a dentist telling a patient it would hurt just a little.
… he says in his soft singsong voice.
His voice is deep and brisk.
Dirk’s voice was heavy with importance, reminding us that underlings must follow their leader.
Dirk lectured in his preacher’s voice.
Her voice whined like a dentist’s drill, shrill, painful, persistent.
You can use this technique several times in your novel, as long as you use different descriptions. Perhaps during the villain’s first appearance, the voice doesn’t sound all that bad, but the simile may hint at something not entirely good. This plants a sense of danger in the reader’s subconscious without giving anything away. Once the villain’s true nature is revealed, the voice descriptions can be explicitly dangerous.
When you include a sentence about the sound of the voice, you don’t need “he/she said” because that’s implied.
If you’re a writer and want to discuss these techniques, please leave a comment. I’ll be around for a week and will respond. I love answering questions.
Thanks to Rayne Hall for providing this post as a participating MTW author. Rayne Hall is the best-selling writing craft author.