Thursday, July 05, 2012

Understanding Author Voice, part two

*This is part two in a series. View part one.

Earlier we started discussing author voice, which is the distinct manner in which a novelist creates sentences and story.
In other words, your voice is your exclusive worldview: your beliefs, your fears, your attitudes, your dreams, the way you react to situations.
All of this means that you have to put yourself on your page. This is what is known as developing your voice. Voice isn't merely style. Style would be easy by comparison. Style is watching your use of adjectives and doing a few flashy things with alliteration or simile. Style without voice is flat. Voice is style, plus personal observations, plus passion, plus belief, plus desire. Voice is revealing yourself on the page, and it can be a powerful, frightening experience.
Yesterday we looked at two samples of writing, today there are two more “voices” to listen to:
FLANNERY DESERVES TO KNOW THE TRUTH about her father. One day I'm going to have to tell her. But not tonight. I am worn out.
It's a tiredness of years.
You know how those ladies' magazines pretend women can do it all and still appear fresh as a sweet-smelling daisy by a clear Swiss spring? Wearing cute loafers, tweed miniskirts, and a camel cashmere twinset, they deposit their kids at soccer in sleek silver cars, green vans with television screens, or gargantuan white SUVs. Drive-through windows constitute meal planning. They see the best doctors because they don't mind going across town. Malls and boutiques bark their clothing on glitzy, stylistic posters. They instantly rid themselves of the nasty Flair inserts in the Valu-Pak coupon collections I look forward to each month. And they throw them into a recycling bin they bought from some woodsy, catalog-driven company.
They adroitly embroider their own existence with the silk threads of others' lives as though the fabric of their day-to-day duties was spun of gossamer and not the heavy mail plates that make up mine.
Was I ever like that?
Once upon a time, I suppose.
SILENCE, AS HEAVY AS DOOM, wraps itself around me as two guards lead me into the lower-level judgment hall. When I fold my hands, the chink of my chains disturbs the quiet.
My judge, Flavius Gemellus, senior centurion of the Cohors Secunda halica Civum Romanorum, looks up from the rolls of parchment on his desk, his eyes narrow. I don't blame him for being annoyed. I am not a Roman citizen, so I have no right to a trial. Besides, I have already confessed and am ready to die.
Do you see a big difference between Angela Hunt’s and Lisa Samson’s excerpts? What do you hear that’s very different?
Can you see the difference in style, personal observations, author’s passions and beliefs in these two samples? Can you glimpse into their worldviews through their voice? I think so. Also, both authors wrote in first person, yet Lisa’s is introspective, and Angela’s character is evaluating her surroundings. Both authors have a very distinctive voice.
Be sure to come back next Tuesday. I’ve got some more wonderful samples to examine and some tips on developing your voice.


Angelica R. Jackson said...

I like how Lisa Samson's starts out timeless and relatable to any woman in any time period, and then in the next few paragraphs firmly grounds us in a contemporary voice.

Megan DiMaria said...

I love Lisa's writing too, Angelica. The words just roll off the tongue, don't you think?