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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
That throw one straight out of a book with no chance of recovery...

Yesterday I downloaded a sample of a book set in a science fiction world I like and dove in, I was liking it, there was this android policeman waking up in an hotel (much to his dismay, since he never sleeps), suddenly realizing he was sharing the bed with a female in state of undress, then she wakes up, asks a question, and the whole mood falls apart since the author writes:

Her tone was a pleasant baritone, made slightly deeper because she had just awoken

Well, given that baritone is a male timbre, and the one deeper than that is bass, I can't help but see this 1.70 m., 57 kilos lady in the leading role in Boris Godunov, and the picture I get of the scene makes me burst out laughing every time.

Since there is no hint watsoever that this character is anything else than a biological female, my guess is that the author meant to write 'alto' and 'baritone' slipped in instead, as incidents go I think this qualifies as epic.
 

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That would be a bit jarring. I suppose a woman could have a baritone voice, but it would be an exceptionally low-pitched voice for a woman, and certainly wouldn't pass without comment. If you wake in bed next to a woman with a baritone voice, it would be reasonable to think that it's not really a woman at all.
 

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I hate it when people don't tell you things like the colour of a character's hair etc, which is fine, then you imagine the character and somewhere near the end of the book they suddenly spring a hair colour on you that you hadn't imagined. Thomas Hardy does this in Jude the Obscure and catches me out every time. He always describes the woman's hair like an angelic cloud and I imagine it blonde all the way through, then suddenly in a train near the end he describes it as very dark.

The same goes for clothes. Somebody goes out from their house and they do a few things during the day. We don't know what they're wearing so we picture our own outfit for them. Then suddenly they get home and take off a cape and extravagant hat.
 

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You can always assume that it was the iphone challenged autofill that wrote it. The Author started writing: "Her tone was a pleasant"... and the autofill put in "baritone".  ;)

 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
QuantumIguana, I don't know if it could happen as a result of some kind of incident (definitely not naturally without a good helping of testosterone) but if it was intentional I would have expected the detective to react to the anomaly.

MariaESchneider why doesn't 'alto' fit? That's the lowest range of female voices (if you prefer 'contralto', the female equivalent of 'bass').
 

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I mean it doesn't fit because it isn't a phrase that is commonly used.  Generally you do see and hear people use, "He had a deep baritone" or "he replied in a deep baritone"  "His deep baritone sent thrills down my spine..."

  But for some reason alto is almost always used only in music.  I've never heard anyone describe a woman's speaking voice as "She has a pleasant alto."  It's not incorrect, it just isn't common use.  In a book, if I saw it, I'd probably notice it because it's not a common phrase.  It wouldn't be a big deal; I know what an alto is but I don't think I've ever seen it used that way--especially if the author was attempting to portray a "sexy, husky" female voice (Not that I have any idea what was intended by baritone, which is probably the point, but if they are in an intimate scene, that is my best guess.) 

It could be that I read the wrong kind of books and there are thousands of examples of people in bed together with a woman's alto voice breaking into the morning like the remnants of last night's jazz vocals.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I see, it must be a local thing.
Over here is quite common to define one's timbre of voice using the opera classes: 'Her shrill soprano voice could be heard from the street', 'her clear contralto surprised him', ' the man's bass tone didn't fit his looks' and so on, for us is both more immediate and precise than 'low' 'high' or 'mid-range', 
 

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Seleya said:
I see, it must be a local thing.
Over here is quite common to define one's timbre of voice using the opera classes: 'Her shrill soprano voice could be heard from the street', 'her clear contralto surprised him', ' the man's bass tone didn't fit his looks' and so on, for us is both more immediate and precise than 'low' 'high' or 'mid-range',
Probably so. Although I have read/heard the soprano one, but definitely not the contralto. Bass, yes...although I'm not sure how common it is--fairly if I had to guess. I'd say of all of them the "shrill soprano" and "baritone" (for a guy) are quite common. I don't think I've ever seen the contralto in a book before (and would have to stop and look it up if someone used it a sentence like that so that I knew where on the range it fell.) Reading the "baritone" in reference to the female voice wouldn't have bothered me most likely. While it's doubtful the lady was hitting all the notes (grin) I'd get the meaning and probably breeze right past it. It depends largely on how well the rest of the sample/scene was going. Of course NOW anytime I see the word I'm going to immediately inspect the character. AHA!!!! HE IS TOO YOUNG TO HAVE A BARITONE! Wait...what do you MEAN THE DOG HAD A BARITONE bark! ;D
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
;D Well, it wouldn't bother me for a young man (as long as it wasn't a boy), or for a dog (my male basset-hound would have qualified) but it's  impossible for a woman, the first thing that jumped to my mind was 'transvestite' or 'transitioning transexual' and neither option was true.
 

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Seleya said:
;D Well, it wouldn't bother me for a young man (as long as it wasn't a boy), or for a dog (my male basset-hound would have qualified) but it's impossible for a woman, the first thing that jumped to my mind was 'transvestite' or 'transitioning transexual' and neither option was true.
Well, didn't you say it was sci/fi? maybe she's a robot. And programmed a little on the low side...
 

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Seleya said:
I see, it must be a local thing.
Over here is quite common to define one's timbre of voice using the opera classes: 'Her shrill soprano voice could be heard from the street', 'her clear contralto surprised him', ' the man's bass tone didn't fit his looks' and so on, for us is both more immediate and precise than 'low' 'high' or 'mid-range',
Having a woman's voice described thusly wouldn't bother me in the least. Wouldn't throw me or anything. . . . .it doesn't seem at all odd. Maybe because I know what they all mean, having gotten a really early start in music and still active now. Surprises me a little that it would seem odd to some. :)

I might think 'baritone' was a weird word to use for a woman's voice, but I don't think it would really bother me. . . . .mind you, if that's just one symptom of ongoing malapropistic disease, I probably wouldn't read much further -- assuming the Malaprop doesn't realize he/she's a Malaprop. :D

I stopped reading a book last month where the author kept using big words wrong just slightly wrong. Like they'd looked 'em up in a thesaurus but didn't pay attention to the fact that the denotation might match, but the connotation is very different.
 

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This thread has made me think I would like more authors to describe the sound of their characters' voices so I could really hear them.

The discussion has also made me more aware of what's annoying me in the novel I'm reading (Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel). She actually had a teenage boy who leaves home in the first chapter, and in the second chapter he's working and I thought me might be a bit older but after pages and pages got told he was 40! That completely messed up how I was imagining the chapter.

Mantel does another thing that really irritates me, but an editor should have sorted this out. She'll have two or more men in a scene and just keeps calling them all 'he' so I have no idea who is doing or saying what. Aaargh.

Having said that, I am starting to enjoy the novel and it just needed somebody to sort out these problems as she knew what she was imagining and presumably thought everybody else would. The young man turns out to be Thomas Cromwell.
 

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Yeah, I am sure the author was just trying to convey that the woman had a deeper voice.  Since I have no musical abilities and wouldn't know a baritone from an alto from a soprano, I would probably read right past that and not even think about it.  At the same time, as a writer, I am sure I have committed similar serious sins.
 

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I sing in the bass section of a choir and when I say it online people ask if I'm really a man. In fact a women's bass section doesn't mean I have a really deep speaking voice. I suppose in fact it may be meaningless to mention a term related to singing for a speaking voice.
 

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Seleya said:
That throw one straight out of a book with no chance of recovery...

Yesterday I downloaded a sample of a book set in a science fiction world I like and dove in, I was liking it, there was this android policeman waking up in an hotel (much to his dismay, since he never sleeps), suddenly realizing he was sharing the bed with a female in state of undress, then she wakes up, asks a question, and the whole mood falls apart since the author writes:

Her tone was a pleasant baritone, made slightly deeper because she had just awoken

Well, given that baritone is a male timbre, and the one deeper than that is bass, I can't help but see this 1.70 m., 57 kilos lady in the leading role in Boris Godunov, and the picture I get of the scene makes me burst out laughing every time.

Since there is no hint watsoever that this character is anything else than a biological female, my guess is that the author meant to write 'alto' and 'baritone' slipped in instead, as incidents go I think this qualifies as epic.
That wouldn't have bothered me in the least...though I suppose if someone used a qulting term incorrectly it might. But, as I think about it, probably not, as I don't expect most people to know very much about quilting. People use quilting terms incorrectly in real life (and on KindleBoards) all the time. ;D

Betsy
 

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Betsy the Quilter said:
That wouldn't have bothered me in the least...though I suppose if someone used a qulting term incorrectly it might. But, as I think about it, probably not, as I don't expect most people to know very much about quilting. People use quilting terms incorrectly in real life (and on KindleBoards) all the time. ;D

Betsy
I quilt. Badly. I don't know the terms from a paperweight. If you say "basting" or "baste" I'm thinking "chicken" -- this can happen to me sitting in a quilting circle.

Once a cook, always a cook. Or maybe I'm just hungry all the time. ;D
 
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