Friday, January 06, 2006

Speak Up!

Darn. When I thought about my blog a couple hours ago, I had a topic in mind. Now, sitting at the computer staring at the blog screen...completely blank. Just a good ol case of scatter brain compounded by the start of a sinus headache. By the time I'm old enough to be really forgetful, I'll be a wreck.

Now lets have my blog evolve a topic - we had a discussion about voice yesterday that struck me as interesting. With my partial going out, the playground has been in a flurry of editing activity helping me prepare. One playfriend said after reading the first couple chapters - "I don't hear Alex's voice here." I guess my reputation for dry, sarcastic wit is such that people expect it to be there. So, my task, if I choose to accept it, is to find a way to pump up my voice without being inappropriate. How do I work my funny outlook on life into a story that isn't really funny?? My heroines and other female characters usually have a touch of "smarty pants" in them that gives words to my attitude and the cadence of my dialog is usually a little different - bantering at times. I've been building up their internal dialog and going through the crazy and sometimes silly thoughts that can creep into a characters mind (I don't like peas!). It's proving a challenge, but later critiques have not mentioned this problem, so hopefully I've figured out the balance.

When I went to Reno this summer, I don't know how many editors or agents said they were looking for a "fresh, new voice." A writer didn't need to reinvent the wheel - they could tell the good ol' secret baby or mistaken identity story - they just had to tell it with the mysterious "fresh, new voice." It seemed to be the theme of every session I attended. So yesterday when the subject of voice came up, it made me wonder. I had sat in sessions in Reno pondering my "voice" at several opportunities. What exactly WAS my voice? Is my voice fresh? Is it new? Am I doing my own thing or trying to mimic the tone of published books before me?

I guess I really wasn't able to put a finger on it until yesterday when Angel pointed it out. My voice is sassy, funny, dry, witty. It was what she expected to come out of me because that's constantly coming out of me when I'm not writing. Maybe now that I can more readily identify "my" voice, it will flow easier, with me not forcing my dog to walk when it wants to sniff. I will never write flowing romantic prose with phrases like "glowing tuminescence" and "her secret molten core." I cannot force my dog down that road. It will, however, trot easily beside me as we jog down Sarcastic Trail.

Is my voice fresh and new? That remains to be seen. Now that the world of voice seems to be opening up to me, I'm anxious to learn more about what makes everyone's writing different. How about you? What kind of voice do you project with your writing? What about your style is uniquely "you?" Have you ever had someone comment on your voice?



Maven Linda Winstead Jones said...

When my second book was published, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, my sister-in-law called me to ask if I had based one of the characters on my brother. Uh, no. Are you sure? she asked. Again, no. But, this character has that Winstead sense of humor, she argued.

Well, my brother and I grew up in the same household, and if Winstead sense of humor exists, we both got it. I don't think my s-i-l ever believed that particular character wasn't based on my brother.

So, I guess that's a part of my voice. I try not to analyze, because that way lies madness. I think you pretty much have to go with the flow, accept what comes, and be yourself to the very core when you're writing.

It's interesting that friends who read our stuff can identify our voice better than we can. Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be.


Playground Monitor said...

I once saw voice defined as your personality on paper. I think it's one of the neatest parts of writing.

Your voice will appear when it needs to appear. I've written several articles for an online magazine and they usually contain humor. However, I did a piece on sexual predators and there's just nothing at all funny about that. It was the most depressing piece of work I've ever written, not only because of the subject matter, but because I had no way to let my humor shine through. I'd do the article again in a heartbeat because it served an important purpose.

I think LJ may be onto something when she says that our friends can identify our voice better than we can. Maybe that IS the way it's supposed to be.

Instigator said...

I think voice is something we can't identify for ourselves because it's 'us'. Just like if someone asks you and your friends what your strong points are you and they will come up with different answers. It's all about how people view things differently - and get different things from a situation.

SP, I know you commented on the different crits you got from each of the playmates. We all concentrated on different aspects of your story - either something we tend to excel at or something we consciously look for in our own writing probably.

I've been told I have a smooth voice, an interesting and different use of description, and tend to be steamy (I'm blaming that on my repressed Catholic school upbringing :-) I hate to be cliché but it's so true).

Take it from me; your voice is there inside the words. I really enjoyed what I read - and I don't tend to read the subgenre you write so that's really saying something. Your story stayed with me for several days and I wanted to read more. You have excellent characters and a different twist on a known topic. I think your dry wit came out in several places - but probably most importantly in the characters. It's there inside them both. The way they react to the situation they're in.


Problem Child said...

"I will never write flowing romantic prose with phrases like "glowing tuminescence" and "her secret molten core."

Oh, thank God.

A "glowing tuminescence"-- is he radioactive?


Smarty Pants said...

I think in the story I read that line in, the moonlight was coming in the window and shining on "him." Wouldn't be quite as romantic if you had to wear the yellow hazmat gear and touch him with tongs. ::snicker::

Instigator said...

Tongs *snicker* that would certainly put a new twist on a love scene. Hmmm, perhaps I'll have to figure out a way to work them into a sex scene just for fun :-)


Angel said...

I'm laughing like crazy at the tong comments and Drama Queen is sitting nearby going, "What's so funny?" I'm not about to explain "glowing tumescence" to a 5-year-old!

I do agree about friends being better able to identify our voice. I had no clue what my voice was or how to identify it until Instigator began critiquing for me. One day she mentioned that my voice was very emotional. That was my first inkling. She was right.

I'm more of a dramatic kind of writer (read here: lots of angst). Though I love to read humor, I couldn't write a really funny book, I think. Though my characters might occassionally say something funny off the cuff.

But figuring out what my voice sounded like was one of those AHA! moments I'll never forget.


Problem Child said...

'Course the HazMat suit might be kinky--if you had a Darth Vader fetish!

You can tell where my mind lives...I kept reading "tongs" as "thongs"


Smarty Pants said...

Thongs, hazmat uniforms, radioactive tuminescence, tongs...

sounds like an interesting party.


Instigator said...

My kinda party ;-) Why do I suddenly have the urge to start something naughty?


Playground Monitor said...


Smarty Pants said...


Sabrah said...

This is late, but I haven't been on line a couple of days. I agree with Maven Jones, if you're honest, you write what you are. I've had friends tell me that if they hadn't seen my name on the cover of my books, they would still have known I wrote them because they "sounded" like me. Since two of those books are historicals, I have to wonder how well I did creating a historical world. I hope they meant the humor sounded like mine, and not the dialogue. I never asked for an elaboration on the comment -- perhaps I should have. Then again . . . Oh Gawd!