Writing the Voice

Voice is something everyone’s looking for, but that everyone’s struggling to define. Many people insist that they should find their author’s voice before they start writing. Mmm… maybe. If you’re writing about themselves or non-fiction. 
To me, though, Voice is a given story’s tone and mood. It’s responsible for the way a story feels. I believe that if the story’s fiction, this feel should be determined by its characters. Not the author. The author shouldn’t be seen at all. 
Instead, the Voice lets the reader gain insight into the character. Because writing he/she/it is a bit tedious when done repeatedly, I’m calling today’s character Tom. 
Now. To nail Tom’s voice, we’d need to look at his likes and dislikes. We need to take into account what excites him. What bores him? What sort of person is he like? Straight and to the point? Or is he poetic? You can ask a million questions about this guy’s personality and about a million of them will have relevance to his Voice. 
Think I’m kidding? Watch this. 
This is me the author. 
Tom saw a pretty girl at the bar. She sat alone, drinking a cocktail. The barman kept glancing her way. 
This is from the point of view of Tom, the slightly arrogant, but not unlikable (at least not to me) alpha-male. 
Today, a lone babe occupied his usual seat. Not that he minded. It would give him a fun night buying her more of those pink drinks she drank. Maybe it would lead to a pay-off, maybe not. In the meantime, he sauntered over to her side and ordered a straight bourbon, sending a too-bad look to the barman, who’d been eyeing her too. 

Now. To Tom, the shy, thoughtful, sensitive guy with a confidence problem. 
Simply put, the woman sitting two bar stools down was… well… stunning. A touch of elegance completely out of place in this tacky pub. She sat with her posture gracefully straight, sending coy little smiles to the barman, who obviously enjoyed the attention. Lucky guy. He’d probably get her number while Tom spent the rest of the night wishing he had the guts to introduce himself. 

Same scenario. Same author. Two very different characters. What part of those paragraphs made up the voice? 
To me, everything. 
Tom1 has a more direct approach. Shorter sentences. Often shorter words as well. Also, it’s clear what his aim is. And the moment he’s next to the girl, he stakes his claim.
Tom2 has longer sentences. He spends more time thinking about something than Tom1. He also keeps his distance, regretting his choice to do so. 
All of those factors add up to the two Toms’ voices. Because all of them add up to what we’d use to tell the two of them apart. The sounds of their narrative voices, as it were. 
I’m not saying you need to nitpick every single word you draft, trying to make every sentence conform. What I am saying is that you’ll need to get to know your character. Not only the stuff you thought you knew. Use your rough draft to find out everything the character shows you. And then when you edit, make sure that everything he thinks, says and does fits with how he or she sounds in your head. 
Yep, the concept really is as simple as that. 
Best of luck with the application! 
If you want to practice, though, write the example sentences I wrote from the PoV of Tom, the nice guy who’s wondering if he should make a move. Feel free to leave in the comments. 
Anyone else have tips on nailing the Voice? 

I took a writing break. To write.

To think that my day started out a little bleak. 

I couldn’t explain it before, but I realized today what it was. This might sound a little weird, but I blame one of my characters. 

See, when I first started to write Doorways, the characters came into my head and told me what happened. 

No, I have to get the voice to come out strong. I have to get into their heads. 

And let’s just say that there’s a head that I don’t find very comfortable. When I started  to revise this part of the story, I thought it would be easy. Only one voice to deal with, right. 

Uhm… Yes… But… 

That one voice is trying to drag me to memories of me the closest I’ve ever been to depression. 

So… no. Not easy. Because there’s just no freaking break from it. I can only hope that it reads better than it writes.

Anyway, I ended up writing the first part of a book that’s been in my head for a while, but only fell into place when I went to visit friends a few weeks ago. 

Just like that, my day improved. I really like the story premise. And to be honest, I love the thrill of drafting something new after months of only focusing on Doorways. 

I’ll get back to the revisions tomorrow, though. Don’t want to fall behind just because my focus wandered. 

Doorways is still the love of my life. 

I’d just made a new friend. 

Have you ever needed to break from writing or editing because a character became too much? Has something like that ever happened to you? How do you deal with it? 

A to Z Challenge: Voice

Once again, I’ve picked a tricky subject for today.

Most agents’ blogs that I’ve visited mention the importance of voice at least once. Each voice must be unique. Only the character’s.

But what is voice?

Take a look at yourself. Your thoughts. Do you have favorite sayings or phrases that come out when you think and speak? Do you have a way of wording your thoughts? Is that way at least a little different from others? Do you have a world view that’s a little different from everyone else?

Check your pulse. If it’s beating, I’m sure that the answers to all of the above will be Yes.

The way that you think, what you think about, the words you use. That’s your voice (in the literary sense). How you speak to people in social interactions. How you express your opinion and how you react when people agree or (tellingly, in my opinion) disagree. That’s your voice.

That makes the importance of voice in books make more sense, doesn’t it? We want our characters to be as authentic as possible. But no matter how much time you spend studying their personality traits and motivations. No matter how accurately they react to the situations in the plot.

If the story is not told in the Main Character’s own voice, nothing will ring true. Because the person doing the talking isn’t the person going through the main story.

So how can we get an authentic voice?

I use two ways.

One is through interviewing the characters who might be called to give me their point of view. The way they react to my questions can give me a clear idea about how they should sound.

The other thing I do is to act on the page. I try to become that character and write down what he/she thinks. My issue with this method is that my voice gets mixed in, because the line of separation between me and the character is blurred.

Because of that, I prefer to interview and listen to the character telling me things. It just works better for me.

How do you get your voice authentic?

Character Voice

Hey all! Here’s the newest installment of GPF. Today’s guest’s blog is always full of fun and interesting views. So please head over there and tell Devin hi for me. 🙂

Character Voice

When you write, do you think from your mind or your characters?

It may seem weird–writing from your characters mind (we’ve created them after all, shouldn’t we think the same?)–but if you think about it, our characters aren’t us. Way to state the obvious, right?

Most writers that I’ve met call their stories their babies–their precious brain child. But what about the characters? They should be just as much our babies as our plots. Even more so, in my opinion. You could have the best Victorian era mystery plot EVER, but if your main character is talking like a valley girl? If they’re describing things as clean and bright, it’s not going to be right. Again, this is probably obvious.

When it comes to describing things, I think, at first, that writers go for the words that they know. I also think that we describe the people/places/things to reflect its history and personality. Alcatraz looks lonely because it hasn’t been used. London is dreary because of its notorious grey skies. The villains are devilishly beautiful or ugly as heck. This is how we want our readers to get a feel for people. This is how we show.

But is your character going to think London is dreary if they’ve lived under grey skies their entire life? Let’s say your MC is a guy that just does not like women. If your villain is a lady, would he really call her beautiful–whether she was or not?

It doesn’t just stop there. What if your MC’s biggest dream was to be a chef (or they could really just love food)–would those green eyes look like summer leaves or would they look like cucumbers? Is someone going to be blushing a lady bug red or are they going to blushing a bell pepper red?

One of the easiest ways to get a start on character voice is to think like them. If they’re a foodie, use food! If they’re into plants and botany, use nature. If they’re the mathematical sort, use numbers and logic. If they’re a shopaholic, use clothes and shoes and name brands. You get the idea.

It may seem obvious–redundant to say, even–but this is one of the things that helped me the most when I began writing. One of my first characters (this was a paranormal story) had the ability to touch something and know exactly what made it up. So, after awhile, I finally realized that touch should be the sense I used most. Not sight. Not smell. Not hearing. Touch. It had to be the most important, because it was the most important to him.

So, take a look at your characters–interview them if you haven’t already–and look at your manuscript. Are they matching up?
Thanks Devin!
Anyone else, if you want to do a post on Fridays, please contact me as soon as you can, as the Fridays are going fast. I’m booked until June so far. 🙂 My e-mail address is: mishagericke@gmail.com (mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com).
So… What do you do to match the voice to the character?