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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Voice

Yes, I've used this sock puppet picture before. It was lame then, and it's lame now, but it does have a voice. Where does that voice come from? Well, it comes from the person whose hand is inside it. Same goes for our writing. Voice comes from the author. According to Donald Maass in The Fire In Fiction, this voice is often stifled for some reason or another. Maass discusses our character voice and our narrative voice, but the bottom line for both is that every single one of us has opinions, so let them show instead of trying to hide them. This is where the fire comes in. This is where our stories stand apart. It's in the way we tell them. Our voice doesn't come from our words. Maass says it comes from our "outlook, opinions, details, delivery, and original perspectives". What I take from this is that there is no secret formula for creating voice. It's something that we each need to come up with on our own. There is no right or wrong here, but there is interesting and boring. Which one do you want to be?

44 comments:

Solvang Sherrie said...

Oh, but that makes it ever so much more personal then when you get a rejection because they really are rejecting you!!

Rae said...

Interesting is definitely the best choice. The hard part is knowing how to achieve it consistently. Sometimes what I consider interesting is boring to another individual. It is a matter of perspective.

Mary said...

working on it - hoping it fully emerges soon.

Glynis said...

Gosh I have been playing catch up on your blog, and I have to say you have had some interesting posts!
I hope my work will be interesting to others, but I know there will be a large group who will yawn as it is not to their taste.

Melanie's Randomness said...

I want to have my own voice & I want my characters to be as a original as it can be. I'm trying to make sure she comes across very clear, very opinionated, as well as secretive.

I remember the sock puppet days. Ohh they were fun. =)

Terri Tiffany said...

I sure hope interesting!!LOL Boring--not wanted!!

Valerie Geary said...

Good post ... and I love sock puppets. :)

Julie Dao said...

Sometimes I have trouble voicing my opinions out loud, so writing's definitely an outlet for getting my feelings across. I love giving the story and characters my voice!

strugglingwriter said...

"there is no secret formula for creating voice"

You are so right. Don't you wish there were, though? :)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I want to be unforgettable. :0)

Tamika: said...

I want the fire!

Great post Susan. I love how Maas address relevant point in a passionate way. He has such a gift at pricking you for what lies beneath the surface.

Beth said...

I think Maass is exactly right. My voice is, well, me! :)

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Hmm. Tough call, but I'm going to have to go with interesting. :)

Yaya' s Changing World said...

Great point. I strongly suspect that Harry Potter told in the voice of say, Stephen King, would have been a completely different story, don't you?

In response to Solvang Sherrie's comment about the rejections, may I just say that publishers would then only be responding to whatever voice you have chosen to use for that particular story; still not rejecting you as a person. At least, that is my feelings on it.
~ Just Joany/Yaya

http://yayashome.blogspot.com
http://redwagonflights.blogspot.com

Cammie said...

So true. I think losing inhibition and the old "what would my mother/preacher/boss think" reticence is key to letting good voice come to life.

Yaya' s Changing World said...

And by the way, I forgot to mention that everyone has a voice in how things are presented and I don't think your sock puppet is at all lame. His smile gives voice to what you are sharing with us. Thank you. I LIKE him!
~ Just Joany/Yaya

http://yayashome.blogspot.com
http://redwagonflights.blogspot.com

Paul said...

No secret formula and no right and wrong with voice. I like that because it gives you the freedom to create and experiment, and write what you as a writer connect with. Thanks for a great post.

Tara said...

I'm a huge fan of the sock puppet! If there was a forumla for voice, writing would become a much easier task.

Mary Anne Gruen said...

I think it's important to find your own voice and to carry on with it even when the gatekeepers are following another trend. During those times you may have to search for other outlets for your writing, which today is much easier than it used to be. Trends change. Before you can chase after one, another one has started.

Karen said...

I really need to read this book. You're doing a fantastic job of bringing up the different subjects. I think it may be time for me to dig a little deeper!

Stephanie L. McGee said...

Voice. I think my own voice comes through pretty clear, but it's character voice that I struggle with. I think I'm getting better as I write and write some more, but I can't be certain.

Corey Schwartz said...

My daughter and I love to pretend we are Junie B and figure out what she would say in a given situation. (Is that a sign of strong voice, or what?) For example, yesterday, we saw a step that my daughter fell off a couple of years ago and we agreed Junie B would probably say something like 'hey, don't ever stand on that step cause that guy will trip you when you're not even looking."

Amy De Trempe said...

Of course I hope I am interesting - lol. And, I don't think sock puppets are lame, but fun. The best part about voices is being able to use all the different aspects of our personalities with our different characters, like dividing up ourselves and giving poritions to different people in the books.

Carolyn V. said...

Interesting! I love voice. It makes a story come to life and a plain story brilliant!

staceyjwarner said...

Voice is so important!

much love

Stephanie Thornton said...

Voice is very important! I haven't read Maass, but I'm wondering if he delineates between first and third person with voice. I find that first person voice is often in your face (not in a bad way) because you're inside that character's head. But third person is more subtle- still there, but not as loud.

Nancy said...

What an interesting idea. I didn't realize my opinions were so important in fiction. One thing concerns me - should I truly unleash my many and strong opinions on some helpless character? I'm not doing a novel right now, but I think this idea would be a "gas" to try on a short story. Thanks for the great info.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Sometimes I worry that all my characters will sound the same. I'm hoping they don't. I keep trying to imagine different opinions and traits. Maybe this is how writers become schizophrenics. LOL.

Angie Muresan said...

I want my voice to be so interesting that no one puts the book down until it is completely read through! You are right! Voice is so important.

Robyn Campbell said...

I'm working on voice. I think in my MG novel the voices were distinct. I'm trying to repeat that now. So much to do, so little time. :)

Lesley said...

Such a great point! (as always) It's SO important for writers to just let their voices emerge naturally. An authentic voice is always more interesting than a voice that is trying hard to be "literary."

Lily Robinson said...

This is another difficult spot for me right now. The chapters that are not what I want them to be, seem to be in a different voice. Should I wait until editing to correct this, or just do a rewrite now as I'm developing the story?

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I struggled with finding my voice early on, but I think I've finally settled into mine. I've discovered I can't write without sarcasm and humor--even if the overall story is dark.

WhisperingWriter said...

I love the sock puppet. I've named him Herb.

There's a lot of my voice in my novel. Some of the same things I've said have wound up in it.

Tabitha Bird said...

You know, I had never heard of 'voice' when I first started writing, and I am glad because I just looked inside and wrote what I pulled out of my heart. Since then I have been told I have a strong voice, lyrical even. and I like that because it is very me. This is a great post and a great reminder to show who we are in our words.

What I am currently struggling to fix in my memoir is pacing... any words of wisdom on this one?

Natalie said...

I think my first manuscript lacked an original voice. Then, when I wrote the second manuscript the voice just came. I've struggled with voice on all the projects I've started since.

Janna Qualman said...

I think it can be so hard not to get in the way of our voices. I try to work on that more than anything, I think.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Voice is paramount. If you haven't read The Eight, try it. Katherine Neville is a master at voice and plot!

Anissa said...

I do think there is often confusion between the author's voice and the characters' voices, especially in first person narratives.

A lot of writing seems to be the only way to really fine tune that authorial voice we each have inside of us.

~Ellie Kings~ said...

I want to be interesting, profound, genuine, and I'll add in unforgetable, like Kristen! :)

Erica said...

I've thought this too. I think people get confused about what voice really is. It's the choice of words you use, the outlook you use, not necessarily how someone talks. Everyone has a voice. They just need to find it :)

Maass is a brilliant man. Great post again!

Terresa said...

"Our stories stand apart by the way we tell them." I'm taking notes here. Great stuff. Thanks for the lesson.

Jennifer Shirk said...

PS. I have a gift for you on my blog...

Abby Annis said...

I'm loving all these posts! Great info! I'll have to buy the book. And interesting, definitely. Or as Kristen Torres-Toro said above, unforgettable. A girl can dream. :)