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Reality Check Voice

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ChrisLewando

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After Pete's first two seminars, this is my take on Voice - so far.

Voice is the unique and individual quality that adds a soul to the work, without which, your work remains unengaging.

Voice is an amalgamation of:
  • The psychology that underpins the author’s own personality.
  • The style of narration that the author attributes to characters via action and dialogue.
  • The author's unique style of writing; the phraseology, sentences, and word choices that makes his or her writing unique.
The first you cannot change; this is you.
The second comprises educated narrative choices.
The third is derived from writing experience, to which there is no short cut.

Over to you...
 

Paul Whybrow

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When I read the second of your points about what goes to make up Voice, 'The style of narration that the author attributes to characters via action and dialogue', my mind flashed on the idea that a writer is a type of ventriloquist. Language choice for your character is crucial, which includes their grammar and even how you punctuate their speech.

I'm having to shape-shift with my WIP, as my antagonist is largely diametrically opposite me as a character, for he's a woman-hating, racist bigot who uses and abandons people, killing those who may know incriminating information about him. My character and I are alike, in that we have a love of art, especially paintings, but to make him manageable for me as a writer, I've made his artistic tastes lean towards the macabre and satanic. His internal dialogue is repulsive, and I'm toying with the veiled insults he'll use when questioned by my detective protagonist.

Some readers attribute the most extreme of an author's characters' actions and statements as being representative of the author's own predilections, especially anything to do with sex! To prevent this happening, I'm already aware, 25,000 words in, that I'm going to have to make a firm demarcation between the baddy art collector and the goody copper...I'm starting to feel like the trainer of a boxer, standing in my fighter's corner as he prowls across the ring to biff his opponent on the chin! :rolleyes:

One useful trick to create a character's voice is to round out who they are with a profile of their likes and dislikes.

60af9cbc0d0adfe24fccfc05ea014aea--writing-help-writing-advice.jpg
 

ChrisLewando

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I agree with your comment that readers assume authors detail their own sexual preferences - as if you would. It's a bit like colleagues and friends assuming you've written them in as characters - as if they were that interesting.

I wrote a few SM books for Virgin Black Lace some years back, and my pseudonym got out into my local pub. Nudge nudge, wink wink, I bet you enjoyed the research... My response was that I wrote about murders too. People intelligent enough to know better can be irritatingly infantile about sex. I didn't enjoy writing those books, but it was an education.
 

Tim James

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I wrote a few SM books for Virgin Black Lace some years back, and my pseudonym got out into my local pub. Nudge nudge, wink wink, I bet you enjoyed the research... My response was that I wrote about murders too

A common piece of "advice" to writers it to "write what you know". Is this why people always assume that you have done everything you write about?
Agatha Christie wrote in detail on hundreds of ways to murder people. As far as I know she never did it herself.
Arthur C Clarke and other SciFi writers wrote wonderfully about travelling in space, and never got to there in person.
 

ChrisLewando

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I went to a talk the other day at the university, where a well known writer said 'write about what you know? God, we'd all be bored to tears!'
He said, write the story, do the research and dot the i's afterwards. A man after my own heart.
 

Tim James

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Write what you can imagine would be a better philosophy.
A bit of research, some fact checking, and a lot of imagination is the way to much better fiction.
 

NickP

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Voice.

I wouldn't worry to much about it. To me, my voice is my voice - the trick is to find your unique truth - what you want to say, what you feel about what you are telling - why are you writing this piece? What's the emotional or intellectual or spiritual driver?

Your voice is that - the bit of writing that is uniquely you and what you want/need to say.
 

Amber

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My response was that I wrote about murders too. People intelligent enough to know better can be irritatingly infantile about sex. I didn't enjoy writing those books, but it was an education.

You had me until here ... I love killing people in writing. It's the best place to be bad.
 

ChrisLewando

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I love nasty stuff in writing. Baddies are such fun to write, and killing is a side effect...
No, it was writing erotica I hated, like writing category romance, with all the restrictions but with added intimate detail, required by the yard. Feel the width, not the quality...
 

lrholland

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Agatha Christie wrote in detail on hundreds of ways to murder people.

Not really. Mostly she poisoned them. Some were strangled, others were drowned, shot, stabbed, or beaten about the head. One was killed by a (ridiculously short) blowpipe and another was jabbed in the neck, but they were both poison as well. My favourite--Spoilers!--was the Poirot short story A Chess Problem where the victim is electrocuted by a chessboard when he makes the third move of the Ruy Lopez opening.

As far as I know she never did it herself.

She may have been tempted to murder her first husband, but she went on holiday instead.
 

Marc Joan

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After Pete's first two seminars, this is my take on Voice - so far.

Voice is the unique and individual quality that adds a soul to the work, without which, your work remains unengaging.

Voice is an amalgamation of:
  • The psychology that underpins the author’s own personality.
  • The style of narration that the author attributes to characters via action and dialogue.
  • The author's unique style of writing; the phraseology, sentences, and word choices that makes his or her writing unique.
The first you cannot change; this is you.
The second comprises educated narrative choices.
The third is derived from writing experience, to which there is no short cut.

Over to you...
I didn't pick up those specific points, but due to circumstances I had to pop in and out of the Voice seminars, so I probably missed stuff. From what I heard, a key feature of Voice -- if you wish to be successful -- is authority. The writing must be sufficiently confident to bring the reader along, to make them forget that they are only reading a story. There are various ways of doing this, not all of which will appeal to all readers, but one is to engineer an apparent intimacy between narrator and reader. In brief: get inside their heads, grab their emotional short'n'curlies and pull until they follow. That's my take thus far anyway.
 

Carly

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My MC's voice slipped in a previous novel when I was writing in first person and the descriptions were too fanciful, quite unlike my MC. I could have got round this by switching to third-person but I chose to ensure that the voice was hers at all times and not just in dialogue.

Saying that, a report writer reviewing the first three chapters saw that my MC was living in London and told me I had her voice wrong. I was advised to watch Eastenders to see how Londoners spoke! I didn't take this advice as a) my MC had moved to London from the home counties aged fifteen, b) although I didn't specify which part of London as it was only relevant to the first chapter, in my mind it was west London, and c) since when is Eastenders a lesson in speaking 'London'? For me, Estuary English seems to be king in most parts of the wider London area and beyond. Luckily, a very sensible author gave me better advice.

While the book didn't get taken on, it wasn't because of the voice but because my subject matter wasn't likely to sell well. It did teach me that people have different ideas on what a voice should be based on their own experiences, so even when a voice is right, someone may feel it is wrong. I agree that a confident voice is key.

I'm writing a different style of book now and it's interesting that I find a voice easier when I can be my natural flippant self.
 
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I have written and self-published books in 1st POV, I find it very easy to write in 1st.
Regarding my voice 1st POV is the easiest form of emotional expression for me as I writer, as you only need to use one channel and its a direct one. But the current series I'm writing is in 3rd POV multiple, I really enjoy writing in this POV and having a cast of characters instead of one or two to play way, at times I still find it very challenging but to me as a writer that is what keeps me engaged and excited in honing my craft.
 
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Laoise30

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Voice is an interesting concept for me - I've been writing for three years - and really only now do I believe I'm finding mine. Having a story and characters worth sharing is one thing - finding a way to put the plot together in an interesting way is a much harder thing to accomplish.
 

Amber

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I have written and self-published books in 1st POV, I find it very easy to write in 1st.
Regarding my voice 1st POV is the easiest form of emotional expression for me as I writer, as you only need to use one channel and its a direct one. But the current series I'm writing is in 3rd POV multiple, I really enjoy writing in this POV and having a cast of characters instead of one or two to play way, at times I still find it very challenging but to me as a writer that is what keeps me engaged and excited in honing my craft.

A few years ago I read a YA book which was written in first person POV and third person POV. I wish I could remember the name of it ... it was a popular book. I didn't care for it but I must have been in the minority.
 

NickP

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Anne Lamott:

“You can only tell a story in your own voice, which is so awful because the voices of the writers I love most, like Isabel Allende, are much more erudite. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a narrator who is from Bolivia and has a speech impediment; it just means I can’t tell my truth in Isabel Allende’s voice. That’s a huge struggle, because how do you find your voice? Well, it’s back to the eraser and the delete button. You find out what it isn’t you, and you get closer and closer to what it is. For instance, in my first book, Hard Laughter, I was writing about my father’s brain cancer. It’s a pretty funny novel, but it’s about how you survive an unsurvivable loss. I kept making things a little bit funny and less real, because I didn’t want people to think I was a buzz-kill or a depressive. And it stuck out. In fact, the first review I got said that “whatever meager charms” I possessed were “ruined frequently by show-offy overkill.’ But I have to tell you: that’s probably the most important piece of feedback I ever got.”
 

NickP

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and

“It’s such a gift for someone to tell you the truth, and it’s such a gift for someone to create art with the mess and the chaos and the despair of life, to have turned it into a song, a poem, a novel. It’s the hugest gift we have to offer one another.”

Take it seriously, dudes. Treat it with gravitas. Even if it's about an elf falling in love with a troll, it's got to be real.
 

Robinne Weiss

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I just finished plodding through Charming by Elliot James. I'd ignored his books at the library for years, but I'm beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel in our small local library, so I picked it up. Very strong voice, but unfortunately one I don't like. The book is a fantasy/thriller, but it's essentially 300 pages of the narrator explaining the world interspersed with quick episodes of extreme violence. The author just assumed the reader would geek out about the world, and carried on--as I said, strong voice. If you did geek out about the world, you'd love it, because the author is speaking directly to you. Decently written, too. Unfortunately, not my thing.
 

Paul Whybrow

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I just finished plodding through Charming by Elliot James. I'd ignored his books at the library for years, but I'm beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel in our small local library, so I picked it up. Very strong voice, but unfortunately one I don't like. The book is a fantasy/thriller, but it's essentially 300 pages of the narrator explaining the world interspersed with quick episodes of extreme violence. The author just assumed the reader would geek out about the world, and carried on--as I said, strong voice. If you did geek out about the world, you'd love it, because the author is speaking directly to you. Decently written, too. Unfortunately, not my thing.

Talking at you, rather than to you....
 
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