Monday, August 3, 2009

Author Voice, Part 1 by Megan DiMaria

Please welcome author Megan DiMaria for a series on author voice. She'll be here the first four Mondays in August with a new article on voice every week.

Author Voice

A lot of time is spent in writing circles discussing author voice. What is it? How do you perfect it?

According to bestselling author Brandilyn Collins, author voice is the distinct manner in which a novelist creates sentences and story.

Let’s look at some passages from books by two authors and “listen” to a few different voices and what they say to us.

Coming Home by Rosamund Pilcher:

The Porthkerris Council School stood half-way up the steep hill which climbed from the heart of the little town to the empty moors which lay beyond. It was a solid Victorian edifice, built of granite blocks, and had three entrances, marked Boys, Girls, and Infants, a legacy from the days when segregation of the sexes was mandatory. It was surrounded by a Tarmac playground and a tall wrought-iron fence, and presented a fairly forbidding face to the world. But on this late afternoon in December, it stood fairly ablaze with light, and from its open doors streamed a flood of excited children, laden with boot-bags, book-bags, balloons on strings, and small paper bags filled with sweets. They emerged in small groups, jostling and giggling and uttering shrieks of cheerful abuse at each other, before finally dispersing and setting off for home.

What does this author’s voice say to us? Ms. Pilcher invites us into a fictional setting with rich detail but without lingering on the minutia that might bog down the story. (Confession time, she’s one of my all-time favorite authors.) She seems affectionate in describing this scene and wanting us to see the excited children as they head on home. I imagine that I’m sitting in a toasty kitchen, sipping tea while a dear friend tells me a good story.

Here’s another sample:

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote:

The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skies and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them.

Capote’s description of Holcomb is almost clinical in style. His voice colors his description of the setting, especially when talks about the local accent. He seems to show no special affection for the area, yet he’s invited us to Holcomb to journey with him as he investigates the story behind a family murdered. His is such a different voice than Pilcher’s, don’t you think?

I have good news and bad news for you today.

The good news is that no one, no other writer, speaker, or thinker can steal your voice. Your voice is what publishers will buy. Your voice is the only product readers can’t get anywhere else.

The bad news is that no one can teach you how to create your voice.

But, I have more good news—with practice, you can discover and develop your voice.

Join me again next Monday when we look at a few more authors’ voices and continue this discussion.

But, tell me—have you found your author voice?

Megan DiMaria’s debut novel, Searching for Spice, is about a long-married woman who wants to have an affair—with her husband. Her second novel, Out of Her Hands, is about taking life as it comes at you with all the surprises and challenges you face with young adult children. In addition to reaching out through her novels, Megan also speaks to women’s groups and teaches on the craft of fiction to writers at conferences and regional seminars. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and assistant director of Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild, Rocky Mountain Region. You can find her online at www.megandimaria.com, www.megandimaria.blogspot.com, Facebook, and Twitter. She also authors an online writing column at Examiner.com, contributes to the Seriously Write blog, and the Coffee and the Muse writer’s ezine.

2 comments:

  1. Great post! I think it has been only recently I found my voice--and part of that has been from blogging.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great point, Terri. What a great place find your writer's voice.

    Annette

    ReplyDelete

We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!