‘All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die.’
Did you know that this famous line from Blade Runner was an ad lib on the actor’s part? Rutger Hauer knew his character so well, he could trust himself to ‘voice’ the right thing.
This week’s writing craft post is about ‘VOICE’, as in the author’s voice. It is so hard to define.
I once asked an editor what they were looking for and they said, they’d know it when they saw it. That’s what authorial voice is like. You know it when you see it.
Some writers have a strong voice and it flavours all their writing. Other writers are more like actors and they slip in and out of voices. I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic so I’ve been gathering insights from others.
What prompted me to tackle this topic was a post by Sarah Hoyt over at the Mad Genius Club. She was looking at voice as it varies from book to book and has this to say about one book and trusting yourself:
‘And then there’s the just-completed Sword and Blood, which has sexual overtones. These make me uncomfortable, not the least because the sex involved is to put it mildly “odd” and I’m afraid people will think it’s my particular kink. (It’s not.) I realized I was stopping fully before any chapter where sex needed to be and then ‘got around it’ by TALKING about sexual feelings. Because that was rationalizing it, and I’m more comfortable with rationality. But the character is not rational about this. In fact, that’s a great part of his challenge. So I had to pull my damper out of it and go in full voice.’
There’s a lot of advice on the web on how to find your voice. Here is a podcast with Julia McCutchen on how to find your authentic voice.
Steve Pressfield analyses voice over here. He talks about the role of voice.
‘The writer’s voice casts a spell. The right voice makes the work accessible; it gives us the tone and point of view that best illuminate the material and make it shine. The magic of Hemingway’s prose is that it describes events the way the human eye sees them. He taught himself this technique as a journalist and he used it very consciously and deliberately.
The door opened. Brett stood there. Behind her was the count.
Hemingway’s technique creates the illusion of seeing. He designed it that way. The way the human eye works. That voice also carries an undertone of despair, of willfully fabricated detachment and objectivity.’
And here Jayne Pupek analyses the elements of voice. She breaks it into Diction, Syntax, Tone and Dialogue.
Trust Holly Lisle to have a useful article on her web site about writer’s voice. She has ten steps to help you find your writing voice. She says:
Your goal is to achieve all three of those milestones:
- To sell your work;
- To reach first-time readers with it;
- To win these first-time readers over as repeat readers of your work.
You do that by offering them something they can’t get anywhere else — and the only thing in the universe that readers cannot get anywhere but from you is . . . you.
All of which is fair enough. I like her ‘Dare to be Dreadful’. As children we are encouraged to attempt things, even though it is likely we will fail. In fact, it is expected that we will fail at first, until we gain the skills to succeed. As adults it is much harder to accept failure because we expect to be competant. We have a lot of ourselves invested in success. But being a creative person means you are constantly putting yourself on the line. Failure is always an option.
And you never get accustomed to the pain of failure. Each rejection hurts because you put 110% into your work.
It seems to me that voice is about trusting yourself and writing from instinct. What do you think?