Monday, August 04, 2008

Finding Your Voice


Did you ever wake up in the morning unable to speak? You drink some water, clear your throat, and voila your voice has come back to you after a long night’s rest. This is the problem that writer’s face daily. They need to find their voice and often times it has slithered away from them.

Your voice in a story is going to be the way that the character "speaks" to you as you read. The voice in first, second or third person will more than likely be the characters voice that you hear, but in non-fiction, the voice is usually that of the author.

You’re not going to speak in your own (author’s) voice when writing a story, you’re going to cross boundaries and give your character his or her very own uniquely developed voice. Say Martha is five, you will need to find the child within you and create around you a child’s world. It is through this world that you will be accustomed to her voice.

The voice is also going to give us a theme and a tone for our story. Through dialect you will also be giving your character a personality. One that you can refine as you go along or sculpt out of clay and make her/him a solid presence in your work. Do you remember Scout and Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird? What lovely characters they turned out to be. Without their unique voice would that book have been as successful as it was?

I like the first person stance for a character because I can make the reader feel as if I’m talking directly to them. Example: "Did I ever tell you about the time…" In this sentence the reader knows I am about to divulge some grand secret that I’ve kept hidden all of my life, but in essence it is my CHARACTERS voice who is going to do all of the divulging.

Grammar and spelling will tell a lot about your character too. Maybe she has a southern drawl and as such her voice is going to have maybe a slight twang to her words. In this case your perfect grammar and spelling goes out the window as you develop the girls voice.

You’ll only use the spelling and grammatical errors when the person is speaking right? Right! Or otherwise your book, novel, Short Story will come across as sloppy. And watch the overuse of many of your words. Sometimes "y’know," can become used so much we lose sight of the character as our temperatures rise and the anger builds from reading someone’s over-use of a word.

Now remember to find a voice and stick to it. Don’t jump around giving someone a Southern accent and then find your character later in the story has gone to eloquent etiquette school and didn’t tell YOU! You’re the author, you are the artist, the creator. You’re the one who will make your voice sing!

2 comments:

Granny said...

Great post. Thanks for the reminder and insight. You always share such great info!

granny

June said...

Thanks for your insightful thoughts on the use of voice, Joni!

Each new work can presents its own challenges in finding the right voice for the story.

Take care,
June