photo from http:// flickr.com
Aren't we all searching for that elusive voice? To say it comes naturally to some and not to others is too simplistic a view, in my opinion. It may come easier to some, others may struggle with issues of plot and structure, but there is not any single part of our writing we can't or shouldn't improve.
A GREAT QUOTE ON THE SUBJECT
by Elizabeth Engstrom
" I have come to believe that there are no new photos and few new stories, only unusual reombinations of things that have been told before. But what is new, and fresh and original is the author's lens through which these situations are viewed. Our gift, and consequently our responsibility as writers, is to view life situations in our naturally unique way and report the truth about their meanings and values to the reading public so they can have fresh insight into the human condition. We are each unique in the universe and, therefore, so are the stories we tell."
HERE ARE SOME THOUGHTS FOR TODAY
If you feel yourself (as we all do) struggling with the issue of voice, ask yourself these questions:
Am I more concerned with what is happening (action) than with the experience of the reader (tone/voice)?
What emotion or mood am I invoking in this scene? How am I doing it?
How can I better balance action and mood?
Too often we get caught up in what the forward action needs to be. We assume that action equates mood. It certainly has the potential, but even the most sock em rock em scenes can fall flat if you don't pay attention to how the story is being told.
Patti Gauch (VP/Penguin) once told me (in a critique session):
"Make it yours by the words you choose"
That was her definition of voice. I thought it fantastic advice.
Could this crazy, elusive, difficult thing called VOICE really boil down to something as simple as WORD CHOICE?
I decided to put her advice to the test. Let me illustrate her point with a comparison example.
In this scene of my manuscript, Virginia Koppel, accused of murdering her husband, responds to the question of innocence. This first example was my initial draft.
A. "True?" Virginia Koppel laughed. She was small in stature, but had a deep laugh. "What's truth got to do with anything?" Virginia stood up and raised her thin arms out to the side. She was short.
Now, using Patti's advice, I changed a few key words and came up with this revision:
B. “True?” Virginia Koppel laughed. She was a tiny thing, but her laugh was deep and throaty. “What’s truth got to do with anything?” Virginia stood up and raised her twiggy arms out to the side. She couldn’t have been an inch over five feet tall.
Is it any better? Well, I think Patti was right. Changing "small in stature" to "tiny little thing" and "deep" to "deep and throaty" and "thin arms" to "twiggy arms" and "she was short" to "she couldn't have been an inch over five feet tall" gives a better feel for the passage. It better invokes the 1957, Arkansas mood I am going for in this particular piece (I think.....I hope).
Let me be clear when I say this is not an area I am even close to solid in. Each day, each revision teaches me new lessons. In fact, I sometimes go to the other extreme and get so lost in prose that my readers lose interest. That is my challenge.
These are simply thoughts I've been having and goals I am striving for in my own writing.
What say you? What would you add?