Hey Ladies and Gentlemen!
Here’s our first guest in the blog series about the craft of writing (or pseudo-NaNoWriMo😉 )
Please welcome with me author Liv Rancourt, who’s going to talk to you a little about an author’s voice today.
She’s a lively writer and her preferred genre is romance, often teamed up with some real hot vamps. Her newest release The Santa Drag is a chick-lit, and just right for the holiday season.
But enough of me talking. Liv…it’s your audience now.
Thanks, Piper, for the chance to be a guest on your blog. I very much appreciate it.
What is Voice?
Voice is one of those things that a new-ish writer worries about, but often has a difficult time defining. In fact, I had a little bit of trouble defining it, despite the fact that it was my idea to write this post. I wandered around the internet and here’s what I learned. Voice is the result of each individual author’s style of combining words. Wikipedia compares Voice with the different instruments in an orchestra. You can tell the difference between a flute and a tuba, right? In the same way the reader recognizes differences between authors.
To use a different image, Voice is sort of a written thumbprint, a distinctive way each author has of combining words. To give you an idea of how it works, here are the first lines from two very different novels:
- “Sometimes you get up in the morning and you know it’s going to be one of those days. No toothpaste left in the tube, no toilet paper on the cardboard roll, hot water cuts out halfway through your shower, and someone’s left a monkey on your doorstep.” (Plum Spooky, Janet Evanovich)
- “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters.” (Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen)
Granted, you would expect these two authors to sound very different, but here’s the thing: in each case, you get an image of what kind of person the narrator is as you read those short clips.
If you look at these two examples, there are as many similarities as there are differences. Both start out with broad opening statements,“…it’s going to be one of those days,” vs. “…a single man…must be in want of a wife.” They both go on to use concrete details to support those statements, and then finish up with a stroke of humor. It’s the voice that separates them. To borrow the Wikipedia imagery, Ms. Austen is the cello, and Ms. Evanovich is the trumpet. With cymbals. Or maybe a kazoo.
It’s as easy…and as hard…as that. The way every writer combines words to make stories creates their voice, which gives the reader a sense of who the narrator is. In time, your writing voice will become as recognizable as, well, your speaking voice and to an extent readers will like your work – or not – because of how they respond to your voice. But don’t freak out or anything. YOU have a voice. You do. And you can develop it.
By writing. Write regularly. Try different styles and see what fits. You have to try different things to see what works best for you. After a while you’ll see patterns and have little “a-ha!” moments when you realize that one way of doing things really does work better for you than another.
I had a singing teacher once who made us study the great jazz vocalists and learn to copy them, figuring that when we were out doing our own thing, we could borrow a phrase from Billie Holiday or a lick from Ella Fitzgerald when we needed them. No one’s every going to accuse me of sounding like one of these masters, but I learned from them, and you can do something similar. Read widely and study what you like about a particular author. Then write. Regularly and often. That’s all it takes to cultivate a voice that marks a piece as distinctively YOU.
Tambourine and all.