Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Find Your Voice

A million and one people in the publishing industry will tell you:  Make sure you infuse your story with voice.  A strong voice is essential.

(Are there a million and one people in the publishing industry?  Hmm.  Maybe.  Don't hold me to it.)

But voice can seem like this elusive pie in the sky that you'll never be able to reach.  It did for me at first anyway.  Then I realized what I was doing wrong.  I was trying so hard to write "well" I wasn't letting my own voice flow.  I began to understand that the way I talk is what separates me.  It's what makes me original.

Let's face it, no two of us talk the same way.  Where I choose the phrase "Thank all that is good and chocolate" you might say a simple "Thank goodness" or "Thank you, sweet chocolate".

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they move as well.  If they talk with their hands, have very expressive faces, or if they're stoic and cold.  That all lends to voice as well.  It's all part of the whole "show don't tell" philosophy.

Without voice, telling:  Rapunzel started getting scared.  Maybe the Prince wouldn't come to save her.

With voice, showing:  Rapunzel's hands began to shake and her breaths came in rapid gasps.  She swallowed hard trying to press the lump in her throat down, but the bile was determined to rise.  Clasping the ledge of the window to brace herself, Rapunzel looks out on the courtyard, but there's no Prince.  Maybe he wasn't coming.  Maybe she would be stuck in this tower forever, left to waste away to nothing.

Obviously these are not perfect examples (and make pretty much no sense), but you get the picture.  Right?

Is voice something  you struggle with in your writing?  Or does it come easily for you?

I've found in my own writing that the voice comes with a really strong character.  One I fully understand and relate to.


Pam Harris said...

I've learned that my voice doesn't really shine through until the revision process. One of my manuscripts have 4 different protagonists, so getting them to sound different was a struggle. However, playlists and character worksheets helped out a lot. :)

Meredith said...

I'm just going based on my own experience, but, for me, voice was tied with the "show vs. tell" problem. The first draft of my mss was a telltelltelltelltell nightmare with no clear voice. As soon as I realized it (or, rather, as soon as it was pointed out to me), I edited the heck out of it, paying close attention to showing, not telling. I did this by focusing on the details and really delving into the characters' actions and motivations. Voice blossomed naturally out of that.

Holly Dodson said...

Pam, I have a hard time with one protagonist, I can't imagine 4! lol You go girl!

Meredith, I agree 100%. I def. think it's tied in with show vs tell.

Alicia Gregoire said...

I find that my character's voice comes out easier if I write in first person.

Jessica K. said...

I love reading the different voices, it really helps me connect to a story. The best thing ever is being able to read someones blog and their book (i.e. Kiersten White and PARANORMALCY) you can totally tell that she was the author of the book and that she used her own voice in the story. Love it.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to get bogged down thinking about voice because everyone and their mother talks about how important it is. That just psychs me out. I definitely struggle with the showing not telling thing. I think I'm doing great with it, and then a critique partner will mark up all the ways I could do it more. Frustrating (but oh so helpful)!

@Jessica, I agree. I think one of the best things I've discovered about blogging is seeing how authors "speak" through their blogs as compared to their fiction.

Susan said...

My voice seems to come around page 50 of a first draft... ;) It takes me that long to finally find it! Then I go back in revisions to get consistency.

I agree with Jessica too -- voice on blogs is a great way to match up with an author!