I've never let that stop me before, so here I go again. I started this blog with the idea I'd talk about nothing but the craft of writing and my pursuit to sell a novel. About three people read my blog in those days. Then I started talking my view of the world outside of the business of writing. The Feedstore Chronicles kind of started the story-telling flavor that the blog has developed. Now they are on hiatus while I have moved on to Tales of the Yellow Flag. I hope the ref stories to come turn out better than the first edition but I think they will. Once I find the correct tone, groove and pace. Funny, I should bring up tone, groove, and pace, and the fact I've strayed from writing related posts, because that is what I'm going to blog about today. Back in year of two thousand and ought, at the encouragement of Hall of Fame RWA member and New York Times Best Selling Author Jodi Thomas I decided to pursue a writing career. Jodi along with a few other published authors that she shared my work with all said the same thing, you have a great voice.
Now being new to the game I thought, but I don't sound a thing like Kasey Kasem and okay I had read out loud for Jodi in class, but I'd never met these other people so how did they know what I sounded like. Only later did I find out they meant my writing voice, but even then I didn't have a clue what they were really talking about. Matter of fact it was three or four years before I really got the whole concept of voice. And even though I feel like I understand it putting a definition into words is a bit dicey. But being glutton for punishment I'm going to try. You know how onions make some people cry, well that's how I feel about this post. It makes me nervous as hell to talk about the many layers of voice when I just might come across as a blithering idiot. Sure I've learned a lot over the last seven years, but at the same time I'm not exactly cashing huge royalty checks. Now that I have rambled forever let me get to the meat of this post. Dang, mention of the word meat made my stomach growl. Here is what I think is the recipe that makes up a nice batch of voice stew. Sentence Structure -
He was hungry.
His ravenous body craved nourishment.
He needed to eat soon, before his stomach took a bite out of his backbone. All of these same the same thing, but in vastly different ways. But is it voice, or the character you are describing that determines the choice. Both. A good writer will tweak the language they use for different characters, especially when using dialogue or a shifting points of view. But over the course of a novel or short story the word choices, the length of sentences and paragraphs, and the structure of an authors words will begin to show a pattern and style. Tone - Again this can change do to genre, character pov, or other factors. But if Stephen King and Kinky Freidman both sat down to tell the same story with the same exact plot line and characters I can guarantee they'd finish with vastly different novels. How a writer develops characters, plots points, and scenes will affect how a reader sees things. A scar, the color of a butchered hog ran jagged across his right cheek and short black stubble covered his meaty skull. Except for the titty pink scar on his cheek he looked just like Curly from The Three Stooges. Same guy, but I bet you look at him different. Again a good writer will use descriptions like this to manipulate the reader into a certain image and mindset, but over time the writer's own preference will come out. I should have used something more neutral like a landscape to show this but hopefully you follow my meaning. Pace - Again a suspense and a coming-of-age novel have to use different paces, but think about a couple of your favorite writers novels. Some tend to tell large sweeping stories that cover years and years of a characters life. Other focus on a short tumultuous period of their protagonists life.
Some authors focus on the why a character is in a hole they can't get out of. Others stick strictly to how they are going to get out. As a writer I sometimes forget that a reader will not know all the things about the story or characters that I do. Deciding what information a reader will need and when is critical to how the character will be viewed.
In my last complete novel. I purposely mislead the reader into thinking my character Lindsay was sexually abused by her father. I wanted readers to feel sympathy for her. I wanted readers to see her as a victim because that is how she sees herself, even though it is not true. The book would have read differently had I laid the facts out there front and center. And now if -- so scratch the if -- WHEN, A River Without Water is published you will have a bit of insight. In a nutshell voice is what you write, how you write it and why you wrote it. Voice is who you are as a writer. But the most important thing I had to learn about voice was to trust my own. To know when to tell my critique group NO. Not because they were wrong, and not because I'm stubborn, but because that is not the way I would ever write it. but if they say your hero is a whiny twit, and I don't care what happens to him, listen. But don't let others restructure your every sentence and rewrite your story. Of course I'm not talking about agents and editors. The power of a contract could make me rewrite dang near anything. Sometime I have to look away from the computer monitor and stare at the ceiling. That is when I ask myself how would I describe this if I were talking to a friend or telling a story from atop a bar stool. Don't fall in love with the way your favorite author does something. Look at what they do, think about why they wrote it that way, and then accomplish the same thing in your own style.
Trust your voice, even if you don't understand what it is, because in the end it is the only thing that separates you from the masses of other writers chasing the same dream.