15 December 2011

It's not what you know...it's what you feel

An interesting discussion came up on one of my writing loops this past week. How to find your "voice."

We all know that voice is one of those elusive, I'll-know-it-when-I-hear-it attributes.
In my opinion, voice is innate. It slumbers in a place so deep within us that we can't access, but...and this is an important but...we can create the condition that will wake it.


Let go.

What i mean by that is don't be afraid to put yourself out there along with her characters. Yes, we write fiction, and yes, our characters' fears, wants and needs aren't necessarily our own…but the want, the vulnerability, the doubts, the regrets, the passion, the pain…all comes from us, the authors.

The idea of write what you know doesn't have to do with the circumstances you're writing about--it doesn't matter if you've never been to Paris, never been a medieval warrior, never carried out a classified spy mission. What matters is that you've loved, lost, laughed and had your heart broken. Put what you know in the emotions your characters are going through.

Let go and write.



Barbara Edwards said...

I was such a newbie I didn't even know about voice until an editor mentioned my 'dark' writing. Now I know it was a compliment.

Unknown said...

I've been told from the beginning that I have a distinctive "voice." At the time, I had no idea what they were talking about.
It's difficult...like we discussed earlier...to teach this to someone. It's like the years I was chair of the science dept. in the school where I taught..one teacher...a coach..was just the worst teacher. The administration instructed me to have a few sessions with this man and "teach him how to teach." Egads--that shows how little they knew.
It cannot be done, just as one cannot be taught...as you say, it must be innate.(see Book Spa Friends for further notes today)

LK Hunsaker said...

Keena, I agree. It's innate. Like Celia said about teaching, you have a storyteller's voice or you don't. They say anyone can write if they learn how. Yes, the technique and such, but I equate voice with being a storyteller. You are or you aren't. There are a lot of big name books from authors who learned the techniques well, and yes, you can, but there's always a difference.

In your work, I hear your voice like you're telling us a story. The same with Celia's. Sometimes I just get the "this happened and this and ..." and that's okay, too, if the story is interesting enough and the craft is learned well enough. Those authors who yank me in, though, are storytellers with true voices.

Sorry.. didn't mean to write a book in your blog. ;-)

Maggie Toussaint said...

This is such timeless advice, Keena, but its the hardest for many writers to achieve. Putting raw emotion on the page is as hard as climbing Mount Everest to some writers.

It took me awhile to find my true voice. I think you have to keep practicing and practicing by writing new material until you train your ear to what your cadence is.

I greatly admire folks who can vary their voice to suit the work - dark and mysterious, light and funny, deeply emotional. I'm something of a one-trick pony when it comes to voice, but hey, that's a good start, and better yet, its recognizable.

Very thought provoking!


Mona Risk said...

When I submitted my first manuscript to Mills& Boon back in 2002, and they answered saying, "we like your voice but write a different story", I sighed with relief. It was the seal of approval I needed to keep writing. I wrote a post about "voices" on Savvy Authors blog two days ago, and on how to develop your voice. Glad to see you continuing the discussion, Keena.

Cheryl Pierson said...

I find I have a slightly different "voice" when I write contemporary than when I write historical. I guess this has to be because of the time period and the characters. I can vary it depending on what I write. Several years ago, I wrote some short stories for Adams Media's Rocking Chair Reader series (kind of like Chicken Soup, but not exactly.) That was when I learned how to vary my voice for the style I was writing in. Voice is one of the hardest things to explain and teach in my writing classes. Stephen King says anyone can be taught to write. I don't believe that, and it pains me to disagree with him, but all I can say is, he has not seen some of the people I've seen come through the door. Another thing that I think is kind of intriguing is that I tend to identify more with my heroes than my heroines, so sometimes, I believe, my 'voice' comes through more strongly with the hero. Very interesting discussion and comments. I enjoyed this.

LK Hunsaker said...

Cheryl, but is that your voice you're altering or your book's voice? I tend to think it's your book's voice because I still get "you" in any of your different styles. Mom once said when she reads my books she hears me telling the story. That's what I call an author's voice.

One of my fave authors is Marilynne Robinson. In each of her three novels, the voice is different. It's the character, not her. And yet it is her. You can feel her behind it even though she does maybe the best job I've ever seen in relaying the pure character voice. Her voice is still there.

My Protect the Heart is a very different voice than Rehearsal for instance. Still, anyone reading all of my work can still hear me in both.

Fascinating topic. ;-)

Cheryl Pierson said...

You are probably right. I tend to agree that in my stories, I could probably pick out "me" if I didn't know I had written them. I think a mother could, too, especially! LOL It is fascinating and fun to experiment with. I just finished a story called KANE'S REDEMPTION that will be out in the next month or so, and it's written from the POV of a 10-year-old boy who was kidnapped by the Apache after they murdered his family. Whatever possessed me? This is not my normal writing fare. I even did it in 1st person, which was the only way this story could have been told. I loved writing it! I have 2 more planned and will start working on them soon-not romance by any stretch of the imagination.

Jannine Gallant said...

Great discussion. I realized I had a voice when one of my editors added a couple of sentences to my story to fix a scene. I thought, hey - that doesn't sound like me. Nothing wrong with it, but it wasn't "me." Another interesting experiment was writing a progressive story with 10 authors. In the beginning, our heroine sounded a little schizophrenic with all those different voices telling her story. I think we all had to modify our voices to make it work.

Keena Kincaid said...

Post the link to the savvy author blog so someone can pop in and find it.

Keena Kincaid said...

Thanks everyone for commenting. I find voice fascinating. I found my after I'd been a reporter for several years. I finally stopped trying so hard and just let myself go and have fun with what i was writing.

Dyanne said...

Hey Keena,

Casey, I loved your responses to the questions. Your book sounds really intriguing.

Keena, great post, good advice.