Monday, August 1, 2011

Writing Craft: Voice, and WINNER!

FIRST: I was up late into the night counting and adding and clicking and compiling the entries for my 200 Follower Lauren Oliver Giveaway, and wow, guys! The entries! You blew me away with your enthusiasm. You guys are awesome, and I really wish I could have given something to all of you. But, there can only be one winner, and according to RANDOM .ORG, that winner is:


Yay! *tosses confetti and streamers*

So, Ari, check your email, okay? I want to get these books to you!

NOW: Writing craft. I've been reading a lot lately, and one thing that's been jumping out at me in a make-or-break sort of way is VOICE. We keep hearing that having a distinct voice is essential, but what does that mean? And more importantly, how do we do it?

Well, I think the most important thing we can do is make sure our character is well-thought out and fully realized. What personality type does this character have? Is she tough-as-nails, or sweet as cotton candy? Does he hold the door for his mother, or stride on through without looking back? Is he the quintessential nerd? Is she in love with her guy, or in love with love? Who are these people?

What is the framework within which their thoughts are built? (AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green is an excellent example of having a well-developed mental framework for each character.) And how will they react emotionally to this situation that they're in? The answers to these questions, more than anything, will dictate their voice, and getting that right can really make your book sing.

And of course, having a distinct way of writing, a distinct cadence, is part of it, too. Garrison Keillor's work is the perfect example of this. Other examples are Roald Dahl (you know a Roald Dahl book by the end of the first page), Dr. Seuss, and Bill Bryson, travel writer extraordinaire.

But then there's the "break" part. I've come across a handful of books in the past couple of months that just haven't resonated with me. The voice was distinct, the background was there... But it just didn't feel right. Most of the time, the character was being snarky in a moment that didn't seem to call for it. I'm not against snarky teens, but there doesn't need to be a comment on every page or at the end of every scene for a reader to get it. Over a whole book, it gets to be too much, and it loses impact.

I wish I had a formula, but I don't. These are just some things to think about. How about you? What book have you read lately that had an outstanding voice? What made it so amazing?


  1. Clive Cussler books are great. Whether it's Dirk Pitt or Kurt Austin, they are each distinct. Wildefire by Karsten Knight was great! Distinct characters and voices and a new writer to boot!

  2. Voice is the toughest thing to work on in writing, as it's the magic part of writing. Still, the more the character "lives" in your subconscious, the more the voice will come out.

  3. Congratulations to the winner. And thanks for defining voice for me. I've been confused whenever I hear this term as it is really difficult to define.

  4. Congrats to the winner. And thanks for the suggestions for books on good voice. I really struggle with this, like I've said many times.

  5. I recently read An Abundance of Katherines--I really enjoyed it, and I think you're spot-on with his use of voice!

  6. I've just discovered Cynthia Rylant (chapter books) and I love her voice because it is a bit dreamier than the average chapter book. It's like she really is sat watching the waves as she writes. Love it!

  7. Congratulations to AR.

    The most recent read with a strong voice was Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. The protagonist was strong and influenced by her Native American ancestors. Her friends sounded age-appropriate and her grandparents were whacky. I got sucked in.