Saturday, September 10, 2011

An Author's Voice Is...How

Back in 2009, Carol Hutchins posted a request for help in searching for her voice. If you hop back there, you'll find a lot of good ideas. I thought I'd approach this subject again because I recently reread two of my favorite authors back-to-back--LaVyrle Spencer and Dick Francis. Immediately an author's Voice came to mind.


I'll speak in present tense although, sadly, both writers have passed away.

LaVyrle writes Americana romance with a lyrical rhythm and use of language that sings off the page. You can't read a Spencer novel quickly. The sound of the story swirling gently in your head forces you to slow down and read every word. Her sentence structure is longer, meatier, her word choice creating specific pictures. In 75 words, she can give you such a picture--both physical and personal--of a character that you would recognize her if you met her.

Dick Francis writes fast-paced suspense. Word choice is no less deliberate, but there's a punch, a tension to the words, to the flow. Surprises spring from the page and the narrative gives you a lovely breather before the next obstacle jumps out at you. Economy of language and focused presentation. In 75 words, Francis can describe the act of making love that is as moving as any 4-pages in a good romance.

The Voice is in the How. How you use words. How you craft sentences. How your language flows. How do the words vibrate? Nice and slow or like a cannon shot?

In both cases, the Voice matches the genre of the book created.

Carol says she can't always hear another author's voice. I tend to think that if you can't hear an author's voice, then the author is working in Generic Author, a kind of Everyman presentation that allows the What (facts of plot, character background, and setting) take center-stage. Nothing wrong with that. A lot of enjoyable stories are crafted in Generic Author.

Carol also thought that she couldn't hear her own voice. I can understand that. As authors, it's much harder to hear ourselves. We need other authors and readers to describe what they hear. "It was a great story!" doesn't cut it for Voice. But reading your book aloud, can the reader say it "is as smooth as warm caramel" or "sounds like bullets" or "feels like you're tripping down the street, laughing all the way"?

Those are the hallmarks of Voice.

4 comments:

Beate Boeker said...

The good thing is that your own voice will emerge eventually - usually not right at the beginning when you're so busy learning everything and trying to do it all right, but with more experience, the true "you" will shine through.
One of my favorite authors is Georgette Heyer. I love her ironic descriptions of people!

Gina/Katherine said...

I actually discuss this in a workshop I teach. Jayne Ann Krentz says, "Voice is like your accent. You might not hear it, but others do." It's your natural choice of words, the rhythm of your sentences, and the way you piece it all together. Voice is the reason you can give a dozen authors the same plotline and each of them will craft a different story. Excellent post!

Sandy Cody said...

Nicd post, LaVerne. I agree with Beate that voice is something that happens when you forget about it and just write.

LaVerne St. George said...

The more I consider Voice, the more I agree that it's a natural extension of your personality and it does appear when you're not thinking about it. Just turn off your Thinking and Write? Hm-m-m.