Tag Archive - voice

The Intersection of Voice and Deep POV

When writers talk about “voice,” they are usually referring to an author’s style of writing. Agents use this definition too. I’ve written about this before, as I feel this designation is off, and often confusing.

In this age of writing in deep POV—meaning, each scene in fiction is coming “through” a particular character, in that every word of the scene is her thoughts, observations, sensory experiences, and opinions. Since that’s the case, that means the entire scene has to be in that character’s “voice,” not the author’s.

This is a huge problem I see in most of the manuscripts I edit and critique. The author’s writing style supercedes the indivual POV characters’ voices such that they all sound the same, use the same vocabulary and syntax, and, essentially come across as clones of one another. Which wouldn’t be a problem if the premise of their novel was about a group of clones. But I haven’t seen that premise cross my desk yet.

What this means is, if you have three POV characters in your novel, the scenes for each one need to read and feel quite different from the other. I should be able to randomly open up a novel I’ve just read (now familiar with the characters) and easily tell, without reading the name, whose POV the scene is in.

Continue Reading…

Understanding the Difference between Author Style and Character Voice

I’m sharing a post from a few years ago on a topic that I feel is so important for fiction writers to understand.

I love talking about voice in fiction. I veer off from other “experts” in definition about voice. I believe that some people are referring to the writer’s style when they talk about voice.

Take a listen to what literary Donald Maass says about voice in Writing the Breakout Novel:

“I am looking for authors with a distinctive voice.” I hear that from editors over lunch almost as often as I hear, “I am looking for big, well-written thrillers.”

What the heck is “voice”? By this, do editors mean “style”? I do not think so. By voice, I think they mean not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre. They want to read an author who is like no other. An original. A standout. A voice.

How can you develop your voice? To some extent it happens all by itself. Stories come from the subconscious. What drives you to write, to some extent, are your own unresolved inner conflicts. Have you noticed your favorite authors have character types that recur? Plot turns that feel familiar? Descriptive details that you would swear you have read before (a yellow bowl, a slant of light, an inch of cigarette ash)? That is the subconscious at work.

You can facilitate voice by giving yourself the freedom to say things in your own unique way. You do not talk exactly like anyone else, right? Why should you write like everyone else?

I’ve written about this on numerous occasions, and I go deep into voice in The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction and 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing. Continue Reading…

The Nuances of Deep POV – Part 4

Deep POV is truly all about voice. I pointed out in a previous post that there is a difference between the author’s writing style and each character’s voice. Voice isn’t just how a character speaks out loud—nor is it about their “inner voice” as they think specific thoughts. It’s every line of the scene.

I really want to drive this home because too many beginning writers—well, seasoned ones too—write every scene with the same style and vocabulary. In real life, hardly anyone talks like anyone else, and, while I can’t read minds, I’m guessing that no one thinks in the same manner as you—the way you form sentences and paragraphs, move from one thought to another.

There are certainly novels—many in the literary genre—that are written in a stylized narrator voice. We know there is a storyteller, whether we are told who that person is or not. That storytelling voice pervades the entire work, as expected.

Diane Setterfield’s Once upon a River is a magical tale told by such a storyteller. The opening lines set this up:

There was once an inn that sat peacefully on the bank of the Thames at Radcot, a day’s walk from the source. There were a great many inns along the upper reaches of the Thames at the time of this story and you could get drunk in all of them, but beyond the usual ale and cider each one had some particular pleasure to offer.

But with most commercial fiction, each scene’s “voice” is dictated by the POV character, and so the entire scene, experienced by the character, is conveyed by and through that character. Continue Reading…

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