Finding Your Voice
This was originally posted on thewingedpen.com
Some of you may ask: Why is voice part of character development?
Well, friend, I’m soooo glad you asked. I once put the question to my Winged Pen peeps: What comes first, voice or plot? I truly thought it was one or the other that came first to any and everyone. I was so surprised when only two of us chose voice as our starting point.
Regardless of how you tackle writing a story, I stand by developing your character’s voice early on in the process. A strong voice will draw your readers in and make your story memorable. Voice sets the tone and creates opportunities for your character to take on the plot headfirst.
Articles and books often portray voice in a vague you’ve-got-it-or-ya-don’t kind of element. Everyone has a voice, it’s a matter of uncovering yours. Here are a few pointers how:
|1. Know your character well. (age, worldview, family dynamics, academic abilities, etc.) Interviewing is very helpful!!||1. Stereotype|
|2. Monologue (either out loud or on paper)||2. Confuse accents or colloquialism with voice|
|3. Read & re-read books with voice you love—Hound Dog True by Linda Urban and The Tiger Rising by Kate Dicamillo are a few I turn to. Conversely, pinpoint books/paragraphs you find aren’t authentic in voice and discuss why.||3. Don’t use your character’s culture as a way to add flourishes to their voice (eg. confusing and outlandish metaphors)|
Number 3 under Don’ts leads me to what voice is versus what it isn’t:
|Voice Is:||Voice Isn’t:|
|1. Compelling||1. Confusing|
|2. Specific||2. Generic|
|3. Unique||3. Bland|
|4. Purposeful||4. Passive|
|5. Revealing||5. Disjointed|
Knowing your character is like having a black and white coloring sheet and voice is the color you add to the picture. Mood, attitudes, personality, worldview all play a part in the colors you choose.
As an author you also have a unique voice. Do you write short, simple sentences? Are you prone to purple prose? Either way, you need to refine your writing and ensure it meets the Do’s and Is’s above. Both forms of writing are effective. Pick up any of Kate Dicamillo books and be wowed by her strong, poignant writing. Then pick up Laini Taylor and fall in love with magically spooky, but oh-so beautiful descriptions.
Your plot may control your character and her voice, but do not underestimate voice. It has the power to drive your plot. When done well, both your plot and your voice will compete in creating a well-developed story.
USEFUL TIDBITS FROM THE PROS:
[Voice] can reflect region, ethnicity or historical era as well as character. However, with these variants, a little goes a long way.
Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress
Voice= Person + Tense + Prosody
+ (Diction + Syntax + Tone + Imagination + Details)
Second Sight by Cheryl B. Klein
Once you discover the authenticity within yourself, you can move into all the other voices that inhabit your imagination with an assurance you never before experienced.
The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb
When you are at ease with family and friends, listen for the way you have of expressing ideas, your authentic voice.
The Writer’s Compass by Nancy Ellen Dodd
2 Voice Challenges:
- Your characters must have such distinct voices and speech patterns that if I were to take the dialogue tags out of your scenes, I could tell exactly who is speaking.
- When I pick up a book with the cover ripped off and no name on the pages, I should be able to read a paragraph and identify you as the author.
Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole
You’re after a particular, distinctive verbalization construct that perfectly conveys how he views the world and how his mind works.
Plot Versus Character by Jeff Gerke