Voice

Revision update: Got through two chapters yesterday and one and a half today. I’m really hoping to get the whole book done by the end of the year, but … hmmm, not sure. We’ll see. My husband said he’d read the book this weekend, which hopefully will give me a boost in my revision. He’ll be the first other person to read the whole thing. It’ll be nice to see how it plays out.

I’m reading Ingrid Law‘s Savvy right now, and it strikes me that this is a great example of a strong, fresh voice.

Voice is one of those weird things to identify. When I first started researching writing novels and going to conferences, I heard about “voice” all the time, but the explanations didn’t really pinpoint exactly what this quality was. Voice always seemed to be this vague thing my writing was supposed to have, something that was strong and fresh, but what was it?

Finally, in a conference I attended a few years ago, I heard an explanation I could understand: Voice is the way YOU write, the words YOU choose and how YOU use them in a sentence. It’s basically, your style of writing.

For beginning writers, their style often mimics their favorite writers or the writers of the novels they’re reading at the moment. But over time, with practice, writers develop their own style that’s unique to them. Some write in a subtle way, others big and bold, some rhythmic, others slam you across the face.

From the first page of Law’s Savvy, I was slapped in the face with her style. She writes first person, so you could say the voice is the voice of the character. Either way, it’s bold, flowery and beautiful. The story is fun, but more fun is Law’s language. Here’s a taste:

When Grandpa wasn’t a grandpa and was just instead a small-fry, hobbledehoy boy blowing out thirteen dripping candles on a lopsided cake…

And another:

The itch and scritch of birthday buzz was about all I was feeling on the Thursday before the Friday before the Saturday I turned thirteen.

Brilliant, huh? Can’t you see the voice oozing out of these word choices?

Now, of course, voice is absolutely personal, so you shouldn’t try to immitate Law’s style. Like any art, often our style is influenced by others, but after a while, it’s ours.

Whatever our style is, subtle or brash, it should be solid, come across strong as our style and no one else’s. I don’t think it’s something you can manufacture; it’s you.

What are your favorite examples of voice?

Write On!

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