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Multiple voices, one author?

Robinne Weiss

Supreme Litopian
#1
Today's discussion of voice got me thinking about my own writing, my own voice. And wondering if it's possible to have two voices, if one writes in two genres. I feel I've been working on a voice in my adult short stories over the past few months, and that's great, but that voice won't do at all for my middle grade novels (components of it, yes, but...). I've been trying to think of authors who've successfully written in different voices for different audiences, and drawing a bit of a blank. Any thoughts? Have any of you read authors who clearly have multiple voices within their fiction (ignore non-fiction for the moment--that voice split is a lot easier to contemplate)?
 

Howard

Venerated Member
#2
I think authors can and do have different voices depending on what they are writing. I think I even do it, to an extent. My YA book reads very little like my self-published stuff, which reads nothing like my more comedic work.
I think it depends on what you are trying to produce. For example, Iain M Banks is probably my favourite author, but I only like his Sci-Fi works. He has another whole collection of published works (under just Iain Banks: no 'M') that are just regular fiction, and I hardly recognise him in them (and as a result, don't care for them.)
 

Amber

Venerated Member
Benefactor
#4
Yes. Mostly. But not altogether.

That's a definite answer.

And then... I'm not sure whether it would be voice rather than style. Come to think of it, the difference between tone, style, and voice -- and if there is one -- and how much of a difference there might be -- would be a discussion without end.

I'm also having trouble thinking of a successful published author who writes in more than one genre whose writing I've read. I want to say, Anne Rice. She wrote some novels you could call contemporary fiction and also wrote some erotica. But they are all in her voice even if the tone, mood, and style of the fiction differs.

And ... when I think about my own writing, I'm sure they're all in my voice and it's only the bells and whistles which change. I don't write in one genre unless you want to group fantasy, science fiction, and all of it's sub-genres into one genre called Speculative Fiction. Then yes, I do write in one genre.

But then, characters in novels have their unique voice and I try to make sure each of my characters has their own way about them, to demonstrate each point of view character's unique way of looking at the world with their internal dialogue, their spoken dialogue, and their use of language. How one character sees fluffy clouds shouldn't be how another one does. Or, actually, more likely, one character would see clouds and the other one wouldn't. One character would use disclaimers and qualifiers such as 'I suppose' and another would use declarative sentences. Whether said use of qualifiers versus declarative sentences translates as politeness versus arrogance or inferiority complex versus confidence depends on, perhaps, the intersection between the readers experience (the reader's personal context) and the context of the characters.

Which is to say, I have no idea.
 

Amber

Venerated Member
Benefactor
#6
I think authors can and do have different voices depending on what they are writing. I think I even do it, to an extent. My YA book reads very little like my self-published stuff, which reads nothing like my more comedic work.
I think it depends on what you are trying to produce. For example, Iain M Banks is probably my favourite author, but I only like his Sci-Fi works. He has another whole collection of published works (under just Iain Banks: no 'M') that are just regular fiction, and I hardly recognise him in them (and as a result, don't care for them.)
I'd never heard of Iain M Banks until last summer when my English friend told me my writing reminded him of Iain M. Banks. I was like, "So what. I've never heard of him. Another of your obscure UK authors. Bah." But then when he wasn't looking, I downloaded a sample of Consider Plebias and there's something to what he said. Although I don't know what. I remain, intrigued yet dubious.

I have all of his books now. Like, every single one. That UK fellow sent them to me.

I'll get to them. There is something I like about them. People shouldn't turn their noses up at space opera. It's so heart wrenchingly beautiful when done right.
 

Carol Rose

Guardian
Staff member
Ambassador
#9
I know a lot of authors who write in more than one sub-genre of romance. They might alter the language for certain genres to suit the expectations of that genre, but their unique author voice is still the same.

As for how to find your voice, @AgentPete touched on that near the end. You write. You practice, practice, practice. It's not something that can be can identified for you because it's your individual way of writing. The way you string together words and sentences. The syntax you use. The way you describe objects or convey emotion. And I think it can evolve as a writer matures deeper into the craft.
 

MaryA

Venerated Member
#10
Some writers are chameleons. I think of the Australian writer Peter Carey because he seems to invent a new voice for each book and sometimes each character. Not a superficial change: what he did when he wrote his 'biography' of Ned Kelly began with a letter written by the young Kelly defending himself against charges of stealing horses. Carey took that feckless, innocent, half-Irish tone and developed it into a full book-length voice.
 

Barbara

Guardian
Benefactor
#11
I think Howard and Amber sort of said it. I think we use one voice, but a different tone depending on what we write. A bit like different aspects of ourselves which are trying to come out as our characters; different parts of us but essentially still us. Am I making sense today? Probably not. It's Monday.
 

Paul Whybrow

Supreme Litopian
#13
In my chosen writing genre of crime, there are several authors best-known for their adult novels, who also pen children's books. James Patterson, who is astonishingly prolific (though he collaborates a lot) has apparently written a series of adventures set in Middle School. I sat in the Children's section of my local library, and read one of these, which only took a few minutes. It relied a lot on silly names for teachers and amusing illustrations for its humour. Glancing at other titles in the series, they followed the same formula, but Patterson is a very formulaic writer. The writing didn't really sound like his voice, but the technique did.

I love Carl Hiaasen's crime novels, which are set in Florida, and tackle environmental issues as well as having gripping plots featuring malevolent criminals. No one combines violence and humour as well as Hiaasen. He's also written five stories for young readers, that emphasise his concern for the environment and in which the violent crime is toned down. It's easy to tell that it's his writing voice.

For me, the most surprising crime writer who's widened his readership is Jo Nesbo. His Harry Hole police investigation novels are choked with adult themes—death, torture, drug-taking and sex—Nesbo's protagonist is, by a huge margin, the most dysfunctional detective around. So, I was truly startled to see a boxed set of Doctor Proctor stories in my local charity shop, with his name on the spines. These stories are based on farting! You wouldn't guess they were written by the same author.
 

Amber

Venerated Member
Benefactor
#14
In my chosen writing genre of crime, there are several authors best-known for their adult novels, who also pen children's books.
I doubt it. Well -- Carl Hiaasen probably does.

James Patterson, who is astonishingly prolific (though he collaborates a lot) has apparently written a series of adventuresset in Middle School.
He'd like you to think so.

I sat in the Children's section of my local library, and read one of these, which only took a few minutes. It relied a lot on silly names for teachers and amusing illustrations for its humour. Glancing at other titles in the series, they followed the same formula, but Patterson is a very formulaic writer. The writing didn't really sound like his voice, but the technique did.
You don't say.

Sorry. It's only, I'm fairly confident what James Patterson is doing is more like running his own publishing imprint than writing. He gives credit to his 'co-authors' but they're relying on his name to sell the book. That sounds like a publishing house to me. I don't like it because it sounds a little exploitative to me. Although, obviously, not even close to the worst thing happening on this block, let alone the world. I won't read any of his books. Although, I'm sure, he'll continue to pen cross genre novels and picture books and cookbooks and whatever... even after he's dead.

I love Carl Hiaasen's crime novels, which are set in Florida, and tackle environmental issues as well as having gripping plots featuring malevolent criminals. No one combines violence and humour as well as Hiaasen. He's also writtenfive stories for young readers, that emphasise his concern for the environment and in which the violent crime is toned down. It's easy to tell that it's his writing voice.
I adore Hiassen. He's very funny. I remember a few people in bookclub looking at me strange for thinking he was funny. Which, is a mystery all of it's own because they are obviously ... funny.

For me, the most surprising crime writer who's widened his readership is Jo Nesbo. His Harry Hole police investigation novels are choked with adult themes—death, torture, drug-taking and sex—Nesbo's protagonist is, by a huge margin, the most dysfunctional detective around. So, I was truly startled to see a boxed set of Doctor Proctor stories in my local charity shop, with his name on the spines.These stories are based on farting! You wouldn't guess they were written by the same author.
Well. Some things never get old. When my son was six he used to laugh and laugh and laugh when I said the word fart. It was very cute. I haven't heard of Nesbo but it's good to be silly.
 

Quillwitch

Idolized Member
#15
Today's discussion of voice got me thinking about my own writing, my own voice. And wondering if it's possible to have two voices, if one writes in two genres. I feel I've been working on a voice in my adult short stories over the past few months, and that's great, but that voice won't do at all for my middle grade novels (components of it, yes, but...). I've been trying to think of authors who've successfully written in different voices for different audiences, and drawing a bit of a blank. Any thoughts? Have any of you read authors who clearly have multiple voices within their fiction (ignore non-fiction for the moment--that voice split is a lot easier to contemplate)?
I would have to say yes, but there might be a certain seal that might give you away regardless. I´m thinking about the most obvious example--JK Rowling.
 

Robinne Weiss

Supreme Litopian
#16
Yes, Brandon Sanderson has written adult, YA, and MG stuff, too. I don't remember his style for any of those ages, and I'm pretty sure the last of his books I picked up, I didn't finish. It might be interesting to go back and read them specifically looking for voice.
 

Howard

Venerated Member
#17
Yes, Brandon Sanderson has written adult, YA, and MG stuff, too. I don't remember his style for any of those ages, and I'm pretty sure the last of his books I picked up, I didn't finish. It might be interesting to go back and read them specifically looking for voice.
I picked up his first Mistborn trilogy on kindle a while back. Never finished it. Just nothing likeable about it in any way, for me.
 

MaryA

Venerated Member
#20
This is a good thread for thinking things through!

I believe each and every one of us, writers or not, has our own distinctive voice. Others recognise it when they hear or read us, we use certain phrases, we have little quirks and accents that are distinctively ours.

That voice comes out in letters and diaries more often than it does in fiction because in fiction we (and here I mean me) tend to rely on borrowed voices because I'm never sure my own voice is good enough. This isn't just about self-esteem. I was brought up in a British colony being taught elocution, having to read texts aloud so that English teachers could correct my pronunciation. My mother's accent was Afrikaans from her schooling in the 1940s, my father's Scottish accent was kept in cellophane for decades. I have a hybrid unstable accent that doesn't belong anywhere and always surprises me when I hear it recorded. As a result, I'm very aware of how speakers speak and what that says about where they come from.

And I was taught to write by imitation, to use certain authors as models. There are all kinds of echoes. I'm something of a mimic on paper if not in real life: I have an ear for how certain people speak and I can reproduce those tones. I like to experiment with different voices and styles and narratives.

But over the course of drafting any fiction, my own voice comes out and I recognise it when I read it. It is about practice, yes, but also about not being self-conscious. When I am immersed in story, my voice stretches and expands. It isn't that I have to believe in me, but that I need to believe in the story. Story births voice.
 

yanapuma

Fledgling - be nice to me!
#21
I'd never heard of Iain M Banks until last summer when my English friend told me my writing reminded him of Iain M. Banks. I was like, "So what. I've never heard of him. Another of your obscure UK authors. Bah." But then when he wasn't looking, I downloaded a sample of Consider Plebias and there's something to what he said. Although I don't know what. I remain, intrigued yet dubious.

I have all of his books now. Like, every single one. That UK fellow sent them to me.

I'll get to them. There is something I like about them. People shouldn't turn their noses up at space opera. It's so heart wrenchingly beautiful when done right.
I think The Wasp Factory his first book is pretty brilliant ... I haven't read anything else although I picked up The Crow Road the other day ...
 

Howard

Venerated Member
#22
I think The Wasp Factory his first book is pretty brilliant ... I haven't read anything else although I picked up The Crow Road the other day ...
This is what is so odd about him. I easily rank him as one of my favourite - of not my absolute favourite - authors, and yet I do not like his fiction books at all. Wasp Factory left me cols, Crow Road lies, unfinished. Anything published under Iain Banks, I have no time for. Those published under Iain M Banks are simply marvelous. Go figure.