V is for Voice
Voice, when it comes to writing, fiction, could mean two things: the writing style of the author, or the personality and speech mannerisms of a point-of-view character. Both these voices need to be nailed in order to produce a compelling piece of fiction.
The style of writing, the flow and pace, the personality and passions of a writer shining through in their work … all these culminate in a unique writer’s voice. Every writer has a unique voice, no matter how much they try to emulate someone else’s. The wider you read, the more influences you draw, and the more unique your voice.
There are plenty of advice on the Net on cultivating your own voice: ex-superagent/author/blogger extraordinaire Nathan Bransford has a post on crafting a great voice; writer Holly Lisle lists 10 steps to finding your writing voice; and Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen discusses how a writer’s voice is the key to writing a good story.
On to writing an effective character voice. To do so, you must really get inside the mind of the point-of-view character. Here are just some questions to ask yourself when you’re writing in your character’s voice:
- How old are they?
- Are they male or female?
- What is their social, economic and educational background?
- What are their likes and dislikes?
- Do they have a catchphrase?
All of these will affect the voice of your character. To illustrate the fact, here is an exercise:
Can you match the following snippets of dialogue to the character who said it?
1. “How do you do, good sir. I say, isn’t it a marvellously spiffing day to partake in a spot of golf?”
2. “Spare some change? I juz needs enough ta gets me summin’ ta eat.”
3. “I can’t believe she actually wore that. I mean, skinny jeans are like, sooo last year.”
A – Sally-Ann McPherson, modern teenage girl
B – Lord Charles Montague Cummings, 4th Earl of Croydon
C – Chad “Roach” Simmons, tramp
Now, can you imagine the tramp speaking like the Earl? Or a British aristocrat gabbing like an American schoolgirl? No? Then this shows just how important it is that a voice must suit the character.
In Oracle, I write mainly from the point-of-view of Detective Kurt Lancer. He’s a mixed-race British cop, 33 years old, who grew up under trying circumstances. He also has a brother 10 years his junior. Hence, Kurt’s voice is contemporary, with more mature mannerisms than his younger brother’s, although I do throw in a couple of London street slang to reflect his upbringing. And, because boys will be boys, I make it a point for him to notice any good-looking girl he happens to bump into.
What other factors do you think contribute to a good writer’s/character’s voice?
Pop back here for tomorrow’s installment, brought to you by the letter W. In the meantime, see what V posts other participating bloggers have come up with here.