Monday, November 07, 2005

My Voice or Lack Thereof

It's pretty sad, isn't it, when I Writer doesn't post on his blog because he can't think of anything to say. Truth is, I can think of lots of things to say, I'm just concerned that some of them will have me hauled off to spend the rest of my days longing for TV time and crafts that involve nothing sharper than a boiled potato.

I wanted to talk about voice a little today. I'm not sure why, it seems to be the most elusive of writing subjects. I think, because, it's really nothing that can be taught. It just happens one day. You're writing along, having written thirty chapters of your novel, each one sounding like a different pre-schooler had written it, when suddenly—wham! You have a voice. Does it work that way? Beats me. All I know is nothing I write sounds like me. And if it does sound like me, it'll never get published.

So how do you get there? When does your writing stop sounding like something your English teacher would be proud of and start sounding like something interesting? There are a lot of not-so-good writers on the best seller list because A)The stories rock and B)They have an interesting voice. Okay, there's more to it, I know, but you get my meaning. We all have writing buddies who, if we laid all their manuscripts side by side, couldn't tell who wrote what. The writing is fine, there are no weak verbs or POV jumps or any of those other deadly sins, but it just sort of lays there, like a healthy meal.

Sometimes, maybe one sentence or even a whole paragraph, we see our voice pop out. "Hello!" it says, then slips away again like a chipmunk in a rotted log. You keep trying to catch it, but it's too quick. People who know me will tell you I'm a bit "flippant." I think that's a nice way of saying I'm a smartass (If I write it as one word like that, it's not swearing). And when I write off the cuff, that comes out. But when I get "serious," and shoot for some good suspense, I sound, well, serious. And who wants that?

So, I'll let y'all know when my voice happens. It's kind of like waiting for puberty, I think. You look down one day and scream. I don't think I'll scream, but I will get out my butterfly net and nail that little sucker before he sneaks off again (my Voice, I mean, get your mind out of the gutter).


Robin Cynclair said...

Ron, you DO have a voice. I can pick your writing out. What makes it fresh and uniquely you? Hard to say. It's the "flippant" comments, the way you portray your characters goals without being obtrusive, the manner in which you present description. I tend to pick up on "voice" rather quickly (why I can't play the guessing game on the forum--poor me! LOL) and you DO have a voice. We all do. Some are just more apparent than others. Just don't confuse your "voice" with your "style". Too easy to combine, yet we do a disservice when we do. Another thing, most authors have a "thing" that separates their work from others. Most times it's very unobtrusive and most readers won't notice it--even readers who are writers. But that's the thing...picking out those little bitty things, studying them, then working your own "thing" into your stories. That will make your "voice" AND "style" more uniquely YOU. Just my two cents, but I'm sticking to it!

Dineen A. Miller said...

Okay, call me dense, but what's the difference between style and voice? Never heard it referred to that way. Miss Robin, class is in session. Now teach!

Ron, I agree with Robin. You have a voice. And it's definitely heard. ;-) Yes, you are a smartass...

Robin Cynclair said...

LOL...D, I could be wrong, but from what I've garnered, the style in which you write is determined by the manner in which you write. The voice is what makes it all yours and yours alone. Ron's IS the smartass mode of voice. LOL Use Colleen Coble for an example...her "style" is that her stories all have strong heroines, unusual professions, and unique settings. Her VOICE is using lots of tension, various subplots which tie seamlessly into the main plot, a believeable spiritual thread, and a strong romantic element. For Kristin Billerbeck, her style is christian characters needing to grow, snarky characters who the reader can relate to. Her VOICE is using humor, great description, and the manner in which she portrays situations in a very realistic light. See what I mean? Anyway, that's my take on it and I'm sticking to it! LOL

Gina Holmes said...

Now, that was an amusing post. Not at all like a healthy meal. More like the bag of Doritos I had for lunch. Story is king. Now that I know all the rules, I've come to that conclusion. Don't sweat the voice, its there and the more you think of it the more self-conscious it will be. You're a great writer from what I've read.