Sunday, August 23, 2009

On the Writer's "Voice"

If you have any idea how to define or describe what it is about a writer's voice that makes it so special (and important), I'd purely love to hear from you!

For me, as a reader, the writer's voice is one of the most important aspects of a book, but exactly how it works is a mystery to me. If the writer's voice is strong enough to make me feel that I am safe and the author is in command of the story, I'm willing to suspend disbelief and accompany him or her down a lot of paths (even some I'd rather not follow). When I read a book or blog, I know (often within the first couple of pages) if I'm in the presence of the kind of Voice I trust and will follow. I can't describe it, but I know it when I read it.

I am sure that different people respond to different kinds of writers' voices, just as we tend to gravitate toward different kinds of spoken voices. I, personally, like strong, straightforward and even powerful voices. Great speakers for me include Barbara Jordan, Maya Angelou and Katharine Hepburn. Great Writers voices have been: Hemingway and Steinbeck.

I don't even mind a narrative voice that occasionally breaks into the story as almost a character of its own. I love that for the same reason I love it when actors almost-but-not-quite slip out of character and engage directly with the audience. It's a way for the reader to engage directly with the writer. I guess technically they are not supposed to do that, but I happen to like it.

As a writer, it is hard to evaluate my own writing voice. It's funny that reading my own writing is a lot like listening to my own speech: it's hard to know what it really sounds like. The only thing that helps is to write something and then put it away for a while, reading it again only after enough time has passed to feel some distance. That means that there is a very long lead-time between when I write something and when I'm ready to put it "out there".

Blogging has helped me get over the obsessive need to worry something to death before I post it, but I still like to fiddle with most articles at least a few times before posting them. For novels, it's a whole lot more complicated and time consuming, or perhaps the better phrase would be "all consuming".

Buy - Always Faithful
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1 comment:

  1. Meredith, an author's voice, to me, is achieved when we write without blinking. When we get in touch with that shadow side of ourself and show it the light. When we stop caring about what someone else might think, or how they might write it. Rather we dig down and let OUR words come. Much like the style of a singer, like John Denver. You know who is singing by the style as much as the words he sings (sang). It is you being you, and accepting the fact that is enough.