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?


Writing to the Market

“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”

– Margaret Thatcher

In other words, you might lose your voice.  For a writer, whether beginner or seasoned pro, losing your voice, is asking others to forget who you are.

Voice is the one element which distinguishes you from every other writer in the world.

Most editors and all agents will tell you they can identify a writers voice in just a few sentences. Many editors and all agents will tell you they recognize the work of their authors in just a few sentences.

Devoted readers will say the same thing.  For myself, an avid Stephen King fan, I was instantly suspicious of the Bachman books and even if it was his laundry list I’d bet a $5 bill I could identify his writing in a page.

So is it okay to write to the market?

Yes, it is, depending on how you do it.

When you’re a savvy author who knows the market is no longer hot for one genre, you can switch up your storytelling to another genre which is enjoying a burst of hot new authors.

Will your fans follow you from one genre to another?  Maybe.

And the answer will never be better than that.  A smart author who feels her story prowess has run it’s course in say historical, may try her hand at steampunk.  the differences will lend itself to an expansion of creativity while giving the historical genre a brief respite.  The differences may not allow for all historical readers to follow, but you might get some who tag along on the adventure.  There may even be some readers who will show an interest in backlist.

There are also those readers who never move outside the genre they love and don’t read any novel that falls outside there desired or preferred genre.  They are happy where they are and will never follow.  Their choice.

Most writers who plan to make their living on writing alone do not limit themselves to a single genre. Those authors spend the time developing the craft, and remain active in at lease two genres.  No, they are not always related genres.  Sometimes the sucess in one genre offers an author the freedom to pursue sucess in a genre they love.  Sometimes the second genre is a dream the accomplished writer just wants to pursue for the fun of it.  Yeah, remember writing is supposed to be fun.  And if you’re not having any fun you might want to try a new genre.

Remember, your voice will remain the same.

Audio Narrators

One of my major addictions is to audio books.  I’ve had an audible account for 4 years and I love it.  I checked my stats recently and I’ve read a total of 11 days, 9 hour and 47 minutes on my iTouch.  (not including my laptop, phone, or burned CD)  That means 11 full days of my life, albeit that is over the course of a year, but still 11 days spent listening to the voices in my head….err ears.

What makes audio books so wonderful is that I can drive, garden, cook, clean, eat, chase dogs, exercise, and well pretty much anything under the sun and still read.  I never would have made it through some of my books merely because I didn’t have the time to sit and read.

My motto: Who needs television when there are books to read.

I’ll stop gabbing about how awesome audio books are and start taking narrators.

First, I’m utterly impressed with how talented these people are.  They are one man/woman actors performing all the roles in the book.  Men do women voices; women do men voices, accents and stutters. They have the challenging task of making a novel come to life with only their voice, no facial features or body movements, just singularly their voice.

Often times, I imagine that I’ve hit that dream of being published and how my books would sound on audio. *Sigh  – Someday*  Hearing books has helped changed my writing.  I hear what is being said and I realize…that’s what I’m doing wrong, I’m not using the characters name enough, or I’m not adding in the pumping drama.  I might hear a word and add it to my vocabulary list whereas if I might have missed it if I hadn’t heard it spoken.

Phil Gigante, is my all time favorite.  He narrates all of Karen Marie Moning’s books, and many others.  I was hooked on his voice within the first five minutes of him speaking in the first highlander book.  He did a deep male Scottish brogue – let me just say – Keep talking baby cuz I’m listening.  As I read further into the series I was amazed at how he was able to duplicate voices from other books, i.e Adam Black (from KMM highlander series) always sounded like Adam Black, in every single book.

Scott Brick, I have to give this guy serious kudos.  I read Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, in audio and if anyone has read that book, all 1100 and something pages of teeny tiny type, knows there are a ton of characters in the book.  Scott Brick had a unique and distinguishable sound for each and every one of them, I knew when Daphne was talking because of the sound he created for her.  I could imagine each voice as an individual – they were no longer created by Scott Brick, but characters coming alive. Can you imagine creating and remembering all of those voices, the sounds, the character within the syllable?  AMAZING.  (By the way if you wish to read it – 63 hours of audio)

This is my last one I promise – Bronson Pinchot.  Do you remember Balki Barokomous from Perfect Strangers, the 80’s sit-com?  This is the guy. He also has a whole bunch of other acting credits, but that’s where I recognize him. I’m currently reading, Blood Oath, by Christopher Farnsworth and he is the narrator.  He is amazing.  At first I heard the voice and thought, no way is that him, his voice is far too sophisticated and deep and oh so lovely. I’m guilty of typecasting him, because he is phenomenal.  He is bringing this book to life for me and I will seek out his future projects.

Who reads audio?  Any recommends or kudos?

For those they don’t read Audio, do you have a particular voice that draws you in?

Let’s talk voices today!