Okay, so here’s what’s up. Danielle got this idea for a “fun” blog post where, instead of talking about “the distinctive style or manner of expression of an author or of a character in a book”, she’d have one of her characters talk about it. Y’know, kinda like a guest post. Except she still has do all the work. April fool’s on her, I guess.
Originally, she was going to have Allyn-a-Dale do it, mostly because – hello – he’s Allyn-a-Dale. You want a voice in the “musical sound produced by [scientific yadda-yadda]” sense? Allyn’s got a voice. Thing is, though, Allyn’s not really blogger material. His style or manner of expression is far more suited to songs and poetry and little sound bites that sound like they ought to be songs or poetry. Tell him to throw together a five- to eight-hundred-word editorial, and he’ll look at you like a deer staring down the shaft of a Robin Hood arrow. Plus, part of the point of this gimmick is that you ought to be able to distinguish between the voice you’re getting now vs. the voice you usually get when Danielle’s skulking around WordPress as Deshipley, and since she expends so much time and energy in trying to talk like her minstrels, the line can get a little blurred.
So I guess Plan “B” is for Bruno. What up, world; “World of the Dream” saga protagonist, comin’ atcha. I’ve been mentioned around here a few times before (way few, compared to, say Gant-o’-the-Lute or Edgwyn the author’s pet, but hey, who’s bitter?), most notably in “Sequel”, “Q and A”, and “Modify”, if you really care enough to check the archives. And apparently, I’m here to rep for voice. Zero pressure.
So. Voice in books. It’s kind of a big deal.
Go to a literary agency’s website and read the agents’ preferences; it’s almost like a cliché. “What’s your number one wish, Beauty Queen?” “World peace!” “What do you want in a book, Agent?” “No vampires!!!” “Besides that.” “A fresh and engaging voice!”
What was the difference between Danielle enjoying that “All Good Children” dystopia she was talking about, way back whenever, and her suffering through 300 pages of heck-on-a-stick with the most martyr-like pout you ever saw? Mostly, the voice of main character Max, that’s what (which, she’s decided, reminded her of me. I can’t tell who’s supposed to be flattered or insulted or on first with that one, so we’ll just leave it alone).
The story you have to tell is only half the battle; the other half is how you tell it. This goes for both third-person and first-person narration, and possibly even more so with the latter. I mean, if you’re gonna have a character doing all the talking, you want them to come across as interesting, right? Otherwise, why is this person getting a book?
Even if it’s only Nameless Omniscient Guy telling the tale from behind a curtain, Oz style, you can’t let character voices slide. Or you could. But your book might tank. The thing about characters is, they’re people. (And I’m not just saying that because I am one; I’m saying it because that’s the kind of thing I’m getting paid the big bucks [read: diddily-squat] to say.) And people don’t all talk the same. (Thank goodness. Have you heard some people talk?) So if you’re reading a book and can’t tell the difference between a) the deer-in-the-archer’s-sights minstrel and b) the modern teen with attitude issues who dreams of solving his differences with a sword without throwing in an “Allyn/Bruno said” every time, there’s a problem somewhere.
How to make sure that your voice is distinctive, fresh, engaging, and conducive to world peace? How the heck should I know? I don’t write. Whatever, I can still throw opinions around. How ‘bout you don’t try to force it? Don’t throw in big, pretentious words that you never actually use just to try to impress anyone, because nobody worth impressing will be. That said, I wouldn’t advise that you write exactly how you talk conversationally, because let’s face it: Real life conversations need major editing. So try to find something comfortable, but not sloppy. Make your voice something you feel able to keep up consistently for however long the book lasts. If it matches the tone of the story, that’s probably a plus. Unless you’re trying to be ironic; that can work, too. And lastly? Try to make it sound like you wrote it. Maybe/maybe not like you, but like you, writing. Because if you, writing, tell good stories, well, people will keep coming back for another listen to your voice. And I’m assuming that’s what you authorial types want.
There you have it. My two cents. And with my promised salary of diddily-squat for this post, that leaves me two cents in the red. Big thanks, Danielle.