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.
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?