Finding Your Voice

I don’t watch television often, but last fall while living with the folks, I had the opportunity to watch television (both good and bad).   In a particular episode on the The Voice, one of the judges – I forget their names, made a big ol’ speech about being unique and making a song your own.  This stuck with me for a bit because the important thing for a writer is to find your voice, and make their story their own.  I thought about this for a while – how do I make the story my own and find a voice that is unique to me.  I came to the conclusion writing is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle – your voice is comprised of little bits and pieces of what you know and who you read.

When I read “Lolita” a year or so ago, I fell in love with author’s taste and feel for particular words, as if the actual letters came alive with his description. Here is the opening line, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta” Valimir Nabokov – Lolita – published 1955 – Page one.  This descriptive is so perfect, I can move my tongue to make those taps, I can imagine an older man telling is story of his young love.  (Thanks to Jeremy Irons for his excellent narrating that masterpiece) –  The imaginative narrative of “Lolita,” gave the author a voice that would make me read more and more of his work.  I want this gift to be a part of my books.

I’ve raved about Jim Butcher – why because I like this sarcastic wit, his descriptions, and his style.  The voice of his characters and the easy flow of his writing make me more engaged as a reader.  I want to have my characters become friends of my readers, I want them to cheer for the hero when he’s met with an impossible task.

Speaking of characters, I recently read Olivia Cunnings, Sinner Series, and I’m addicted to the complex relationship between all of the characters.  I’ve learned from her writing how to give life and purpose to secondary characters, to make them unique and support the lead story.   This is something I haven’t focused on in my writing, but I’m working now to flesh out the secondary characters and enrich the story.

My all-time favorite author – Anne Rice – has the gift for over writing or being too descriptive. (I don’t not say that in a negative way at all – I believe this is a bonus)  It is her gift of describing a setting, situation, or crisis, that makes my heart race and my fingers turn pages.  I have no doubts this is a piece of my writing voice.  I love love love long narrative, description, and giving the story an ambiance uniquely my own.

I could give you a dozen more examples of things I’ve picked up from other authors, internalized and made come to life in my own work.   I can see the influence these masters have imparted with their talent, and I’m eternally grateful.  The unique blending of my own preferences as a reader gives me a voice as a writer.

How about you?  As a reader, what things do you love about a particular author’s voice?  As a writer, who has influenced you as a writer?