Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Hear You ~ A Writer's Voice [Craft Workshop]

     What draws a reader to an author is not just his storytelling skill, but also how the writer uses words. The phrasing, sentence structure and word choices define the writer's “Voice.” This is what makes each wordsmith unique in all forms of prose.

      New writers hear, "Your voice isn't very strong," or "Your voice doesn't fit the character." How do you find “your” voice? Unfortunately, a Voice is not a learned part of language, but there are techniques to make it more recognizable.

     First, let’s tackle how to develop a stronger voice. After hearing this topic referred to at multiple workshops, the answer consistently returns to this recommendation---Read books by authors you enjoy, but from now on notice the use of phasing. Phrasing is the rhythm of sentence structure. The ebb and flow is what makes the prose enjoyable, i.e. the writer’s voice.

     Practice by writing in a similar style to find an unforced pattern. Read it aloud, the words should flow naturally. After gaining confidence in your own style, “your” voice will emerge. It is not easy, if so everyone would have best sellers, but without a defined voice projected throughout the story, the prose will fall flat.

     A Character’s Voice, or tone, must fit the age, status, culture and sex of each character. Listen to conversations to find simple examples. There is a confidence and language factor to consider in dialogue. Each character should have a tone individual to them.

     Teenage girls do not speak or think the same as high society thirty-something women. Women do not speak like men. Even accomplished writers can forget to change character’s heads occasionally, but maintaining the character’s voice is vital to keeping your reader turning the pages.

     Unique dialogue helps a reader to follow who is speaking without referring back or relying on sentence tags. It may help to write the scene in one character’s head, and then add more dialogue for other characters afterwards. Personally, my characters are vying for my attention and they leave little choice, but to write them in full banter.

     Here is an example of completely different character identities from my novel, “Full Count:”

     "Allentown Emergency. Is this an emergency?”
     I release my breath in a gush. “Yes. There’s a naked guy on the floor.” Nerves force me to pace around the body, leaving little stiletto marks of blood tracing my path.

     “And how is this situation an emergency, Ma’am?”

     “He’s dead!”

     “A suicide, Ma’am?”


     “Are you sure he’s dead, Ma’am?”

     “I think so. He’s shot in the head, but…”

     “But, What, Ma’am?”

     “His…Mr. Happy is standing tall. Can he be dead and have a boner?” I stare at his chest waiting for any movement. Nothing. “I’m pretty sure he’s dead. He‘s not breathing either.”

    “Just to clarify, Ma‘am, there is a naked man shot in the head, lying on the floor with an erection and he‘s not breathing.”

      In this scene, there is no need for sentence tags because each character is unique in thought, action and dialogue. Each one has an individual voice, and the prose flows with its own rhythm. Once you accomplish a single character’s voice, your voice isn’t far behind.

     Unfortunately, there is no easy way to acquire a writer’s voice other than working hard at your craft, but I hope this helps you to reach an “Ah Ha” moment to strengthening your own tone.

 Happy writing ~ Diane

No comments:

Post a Comment