Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Voice: Can You Hear Me?
About five years ago, I attended a workshop about "voice." It was maybe 3 or 4 hours long. We did a whole bunch of exercises. What was our favorite color? Music? Setting? Ice-cream? Movie? At the end of the workshop, I realized the author was trying to get us to figure out our own personalities. Her point was that our personality is our voice.
I asked a question. I've read authors who wrote romantic comedy, which was light-hearted and funny, and romantic suspense, which was dark. Same voice? She said yes, no matter what an author writes her voice is always the same.
I totally disagree.
I think an author can "adopt" a voice for a book. A funny, light voice for comedy is perfect. And something denser, darker for suspense makes sense.
I think that we have many voices. Because we have lightness inside of us, as well as darkness. And a truly talented writer can tap into many different things to create a novel.
Can you teach a writer to have a "voice"? That is a very good question. You can teach someone the craft of writing, but voice is more difficult to navigate. I think that a lot of newbie writers are concerned with craft, and don't think about voice. Which is fine. Hopefully, your voice shines through your writing. Hopefully, it's instinctive. But over time, I think it can develop and become more distinct.
The books with the most "pop" are ones where the author's voice really sings. The same exact story, written by two different authors, will be totally different because of voice.
This past week I've read a bunch of books, manuscripts, and even a Facebook post that was so exploding with voice it inspired a new book. Bobbi Ruggiero has a phenomenal WIP she is working on, with a tried and true storyline. Why does it work? Because her voice is fresh, new, charming and filled with energy. Her voice is quite literally, her own voice. I can hear her saying the lines. Her humor shines through, her passion shines through. This is what every writer aspires to with her own "voice."
I read Penny Reid's quirky debut novel NEANDERTHAL SEEKS HUMAN and adored it. Voice is a mix of humor, stylistic components, character, pacing. Everything together. Reid has a unique voice, quirky, fun, and funky. It works like a charm for this lovely story. I'll be writing a full review soon.
Finally, the Facebook post. My friend Stephanie Estes Saccoccio wrote a Facebook status that was 87 words long. It was exploding with voice. In eighty seven words, she wrote a story, with perfect pacing, comedic timing, and the promise for more. I bugged her about using those 87 words as the opening paragraph for a contemporary romance, and finally she said...Um, I think I might try that! She has a natural modern, funny voice that is perfect for con rom. And her storytelling ability is off the charts. I think she could take any story idea and make it sing, because of her strong, comedic voice.
Do any of you have a favorite author with a distinctive voice? Have you read any books recently that fell flat because of a lack of voice? What do you think?