Monday, May 3, 2010

Food for Thought: Voice

Yes, back to that good old topic: voice.

As writers, especially when unpublished, we ponder, agonize a lot about and over voice. What IS it? Do we have it? Can we buy it at the Writers Emporium when popping over for a new handful of fresh plots? (This being my new standard internal reply when someone asks me where I get my ideas. Alas, I’m too much of a goody-goody to say this out loud.)

Voice, of course, is that distinctive marker, the combination and use of words a writer chooses to use that is unique to them alone.

This weekend, I read Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran. First off, I should say that if you haven’t read anything by Duran, you should. I am aware that there are those who think Romance is all fluff and cheesy stories. Read one of Duran’s books. They are gorgeous, filled with depth yet lightness, and are, above all, very romantic. Romantic in the way of a gentle sigh. Not only does this woman have talent, she has a voice. Rip the cover off of her book and put it in my hot little hands and I will know it is her story.

In just the same way that I don’t need to read the little labels at the bottom of these posts to know whether was written by Jen, Claire, or Rachel. They all have a distinctive voice. For me, Jen’s writing has a crispness, the vivacity of a 1000-watt bulb that always shines through; Claire’s prose has a delicate sensibility and the gossamer beauty of fine Irish lace; while Rachel’s voice is rich and deep yet with an underlying sharpness, like a spoon swirling through hot coco. That doesn’t mean that Jen is not capable of depth or Rachel of lightness, or Claire of richness, it simply means that that underlying everything they write, something of that tone always resonates for me.

However, there are many, many writers that don’t have a particularly unique voice. I’ve read dozens of books in which this is the case. And that’s just fine. Because they have Story. In all honesty, Story trumps Voice every time.

What? You say. Aren’t we told over and over that agents and editors are looking for VOICE?! Well, yes, in the way that I am constantly looking for that perfect Spring jacket –one that will keep me warm in the breeze but isn’t going to suffocate me, one that is rain proof yet sleekly styled. If I find one, I’m going to snatch it up and treasure it. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t buy a lot of plain t-shirts throughout the year. I need t-shirts. I love t-shirts.

You can have the most beautiful voice in the world. But if no body particularly wants to hear an Aria and that’s what you’re singing, well, what does it matter? Now take an electronically enhanced voice, add a catchy refrain, a beat that everyone can dance to, and you’re selling millions.

Please, don’t get me wrong here, a good voice, quality writing is something we should all strive for. Always. My point here is that we all aren’t going to have that voice. This is okay. But the one thing we all WILL need is a good story.

Evolve your craft, never settle for less than your absolute best performance, but don’t lose sight of the plain fact that publishing is a business, it sells a product, and that product is the STORY.

Find yourself a good story. And if you can add catchy refrain, and a beat that everyone can dance to…

1 comment:

  1. Argh, this is one of those things I struggle with. I could definitely use more voice and dialogue exercises :-)