Chat With Dawn Allen: What Does Your Manuscript Sound Like?

Different Strokes: Voice

December’s is Voice. Editors and agents are looking for authentic voice in manuscripts. So, what is voice? It stems from the word choice, attitude, and sentence structure. It’s embellished by the flow between narrative and dialogue, as well as description. So, how can writers find their “authentic voice”?

My first guest blogger on the chat about Voice is Dawn Allen. She is a writing instructor and workshop presenter, the founding member of critique group, Novel Clique, and an active member of First Tuesdays. Her stories have appeared in Soft Whispers; A Fly in Amber; and articles with First Opinions, Second Reactions. Her story, “Taking Out the Trash”, is in the anthology, Don’t Tread on Me: Tales of Retribution and Revenge. Her short story, “Christmas Karma” is in the anthology, Once Upon a Christmas and her short story, “Hijacking Halloween” is in the anthology October Nightmares and Dreams on which she served as co-editor. Dawn holds an MFA in Writing from the University of Nebraska.

What type of fiction do you write?
This used to be easier to answer. In the adult audience, it’s mostly mystery/thrillers. For YA, I lean toward Sci/Fi (although I prefer the term speculative) and paranormal.

Do you have a favorite quote about creating active voice?
“Live in the active voice, rather than passive.”

“Think more about what you happen than what is happening to you.” ~ William de Witt Hyde

Do you read other books during the first draft of a new story?
Yes. I think you need to continue to have fresh art coming into your head. In fact, I never stop reading.

Do you have any tips to help develop narrative voice?
Do your homework before you actually write a novel. Do character journals/diaries, profiles/bios, even write scenes for them that may or may not be a part of the book. If you pursue the complete development of the characters, they’ll come alive on the page. At Novel Clique, we write “candy bar” scenes first. These are ones we feel passionate about and which reveal the most about our characters. By writing those first, you are firmly entrenched in the character before you sit down to write the rest of the narrative.

Do you have a technique for establishing a clear narrative voice, such as writing in first person?
I don’t think there is one magic button. It takes getting into a character’s persona. If you spend time on the character, write in that character’s voice for a host of soul searching pages, you’ll establish a narrative voice that is believable. If you don’t take that time, your character will come across as flat and uninteresting.

How can you tell when the voice of your WIP (work-in-progress) is off?
First and foremost, readers will tell you. The importance of a good critique group or a trusted first reader cannot be underestimated. Find a beta reader because if the character isn’t working, nothing else will work either.

Is there a particular author(s) whose voice you admire?
Harlan Coben is one of many that I admire for having a strong voice in the characters he writes. There are a lot of writers who excel at this, but he is the guy who always comes to mind when I think of voice.

How can people learn more about you and your writing?
Hook up with me  on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, and follow my own blog.


Thank you, Dawn for taking the time to answer these questions.

Do you keep character journals/diaries,profiles/bios? Do you write “candy bar” scenes first or in chronological order? Do you have beta readers or belong to a critique group and if so, are they helpful or hurtful?

15 comments on “Chat With Dawn Allen: What Does Your Manuscript Sound Like?

  1. lbdiamond says:

    This is a great interview! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on voice, Dawn!! 😀

  2. Evie says:

    Cool interview!

    Do you keep character journals/diaries,profiles/bios? I write bios and character sheets for all my characters, starting with Major, then Major-Minor, Minor, then a few things on Minor-Minor characters.

    Do you write “candy bar” scenes first or in chronological order? I write everything in order, no matter how much I want to write a certain scene. Normally, though, I itch to start/continue the book rather than certain scenes.

    Do you have beta readers or belong to a critique group and if so, are they helpful or hurtful? I have online friends who are writers, and we help each other out when needed. And I used to belong to a critique group, but I never felt comfortable there because some of the members were too rude (in general) for my liking.

    • Love how thorough you are with character sheets. That’ll make things a lot easier during revisions.

      Writing the story line is a good method to stay motivated. Like a dangling carrot. 🙂

      Glad you didn’t give up on critique partners. Mine are invaluable. Sounds like you’d be a perfect guest blogger for my critique group chat. I’ll send you a note offline.

      Sent from my iPhone

      • Evie says:

        Thanks! It definitely makes things easier. And I don’t know what I’d do without my writer friends. They’re fantastic.

        That sounds great! Sure, shoot me an email (it’s on my blog).

  3. I am the world’s only physician bluegrass fiction writer, so all I gotta do is be me. It’s easy for me to be me and impossible for anyone else to do so.

    Dr. B, author, “The Mandolin Case”

  4. Beverly says:

    I love getting acquainted with my characters. I write profiles, interview them, and sometimes have them write journals. They often tell my things about themselves that are surprising. Love it when that happens.
    Great post. Enjoyed the interview.

  5. kellyhashway says:

    I really think you need to “become” the character to hear their voice. For me it’s easier to write in first person because it forces me to step into the character and speak as though I was him/her.

    • This is a great way to empathize with a character. And a perfect example of how to bring voice to s story. Voice goes beyond what characters say in dialogue. It includes narrative as well.

      Sent from my iPhone

  6. kellyhashway says:

    Ugh! Typo in my comment. Meant to say “speak as though I WERE him/her. I haven’t had my coffee yet!

  7. […] tips on Voice, be sure to read Dawn Allen’s and Laura Diamond’s guest blogger […]

  8. […] December, we chatted with Laura Diamond and Dawn Allen to get their thoughts on Voice. This week, I interviewed Marsha Lytle. I met Marsha through […]

  9. […] December, we chatted with Laura Diamond and Dawn Allen to get their thoughts on Voice. This week, I interviewed Nancy Pistorius. I met Nancy through the […]

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