Another word about Voice

“Oh, I don’t read that genre.”

How many times do you hear or say that? *raises hand* I say it all the time. Since my entire life is about reading, I have my staple of favorite authors whom I read in my free time <insert maniacal laughter here>. And I rarely venture off my narrow ledge…until now.

Through a circuitous route of silliness and tongue-wagging, I clicked over to Stacia Kane’s website. Since she has a wicked sense of humor, I was eager to see her books. Now, Stacia writes urban fantasy – not a genre I read. But I read the sample chapter of Unholy Ghosts and was hooked, and bought her book.

I’m trying to broaden my literary horizons from my usual private reading fare, but I never saw myself reading this particular genre. So how did Stacia hook me? Her Voice. I love it. Her writing style is so unique that I would recognize her writing anywhere…yeah, after only one chapter.

So what do I mean by Voice? If you google it, you’ll see all kinds of definitions. For me, Voice is the distinctive writing style that separates the author from the pack. And Stacia accomplishes this by the bucket load – to the point where I chose to read something that I wouldn’t have normally picked up.

I know this idea of Voice confuses a lot of people, and I’ve written about it a number of times. To simplify things, think about your friends. Do you have one friend who has a unique way of expressing herself, to the point where you say, “Uh huh, only YOU would say that.”

That is Voice…and it’s a writer’s bestest friend. I’ve seen stories that had huge potential due to their subject matter, but the Voice was so dry and vanilla that it was hard to stay engaged. Books need personality – and they gain that through our little buddy, Voice. For example, John Lescroart (one of the nicest Big Deal authors in the world) has a distinction for dialog. I’ve followed his career from the early days, so it’s hard to remember all the different plotlines – which are all very good. But what always keeps me coming back is his dialog because it’s the glue of the characters that keep me turning the pages.

You want to avoid making your writing look like anyone could have written it. Anyone can crank out vanilla writing, but it takes a certain amount of letting go in order to distinguish your writing style to the point where readers are rendered helpless against your talents and MUST buy your book – even if it’s not in a genre they normally read.

Lean Into Yourself

I remember talking to a woman at a writer’s conference. She was so screamingly funny, that I told her to please send me her manuscript. I couldn’t wait because I thought anyone who was that witty in person must write like the wind. To the contrary, it was like someone sucked out her personality and left a minimalist, dull, flat, vanilla writing style in its place. And I’ve seen this numerous times.

Just because you sit in front of a computer to tippy type your story out means that you fork over your personality because you’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously. NOOOO. This is the time you need to channel…and honor…your fabulous personality, and let it barf out in your writing. Lean into who you are, and let it come out in your writing. You’re being true to you by letting you out.

In the course of writing you’re creating your unique, distinct voice. Heck, consider this blog. How I write is exactly how I speak. It has my distinct voice, which allows readers to know who I am and how I express myself. I carry that same voice over to The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box, and my novel, Donovan’s Paradigm just as Stacia does with her writing.

Obviously, you need to be mindful of how you channel your voice because you need to balance the narrative and the dialog. I suggest you read the sample chap of Stacia’s book, Unholy Ghosts, because she’s very effective in establishing an immediate, memorable tone.

And speaking of Voice and my literary hero, John Lescroart, he  has a great blog post about Narrative Voice.

4 Responses to Another word about Voice

  1. drtombibey says:

    My voice is to write physician bluegrass fiction. I am so unique that I’m the only author in my genre.

    Dr. Tom Bibey, author, “The Mandolin Case”

  2. What feels right to me in nonfiction is virtually impossible to achieve in fiction. I’m vanilla. So I don’t write fiction. I’m a jack-of-one-trade.

  3. Val, depending on what kind of nonfiction you write, voice is still very much in play. Narrative nonfiction, for instance needs every bit of voice as fiction.

  4. Very helpful piece on a challenging aspect of writing. Maybe we should try taping ourselves…or our subjects to more easily translate voice to the written word.

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