Understanding Author Voice, part two
*This is part two in a series. View part one. Last week we started discussing author voice, which is the way in which an author tells a story: word and phrase choices, sentence and chapter length, and the author's distinct world view.
In other words, your voice is your exclusive worldview: your beliefs, your fears, your attitudes, your dreams, the way you react to situations.
All of this means that you have to put yourself on the page. This is what is known as developing your voice.
Voice isn't merely style. Style would be easy by comparison. Style is watching your use of adjectives and doing a few flashy things with alliteration or simile. Style without voice is flat.
Voice is style, plus personal observations, plus passion, plus belief, plus desire. Voice is revealing yourself on the page, and it can be a powerful, frightening experience.
Last Tuesday we looked at two samples of writing, today there are two more “voices” to listen to:
Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano
March 1883—New York City
Pressing her nose against the glass of the carriage window, Miss Permilia Griswold felt her stomach begin to churn as she took note of the throngs of people lining Fifth Avenue. Even though darkness had descended over the city hours before, the lure of witnessing New York society trundling down the street in their fancy carriages, on their way to Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbuilt’s costume ball, was apparently enough of a spectacle to keep people out and about on a chilly spring night.
That her father’s carriage was still blocks away from their destination of 660 Fifth Avenue and yet crowds were pressed three deep in and around the sidewalk, gave clear testimony to the importance of this particular ball and to the interest New Yorkers had for its highest society members.
Even though Permilia was included on the invitation list for the most important societal events in the city, she’d not grown up within the cosseted inner circles of society, which exactly explained why her stomach was churning.
She was uncomfortable in social situations, had yet to master all the rule that went with being a member of New York society, and . . . “
And here's an interesting contrast, another historical (same time period) but with an entirely different feel.
Grace and the Preacher by Kim Vogel Sawyer
“Hey, Theo, didja hear the news?”
Theophil Garrison paused with the pitchfork tines buried in the mound of hay and sent a sideways look at the barber’s son. The skinny youth nicknamed Red nearly danced in place on the packed-dirt floor of the livery stable, and an eager grin split his pimply face. The news must be powerful exciting to get Red so wound up. Theo could use a little excitement.
Angling himself to face the boy, he held the pitchfork handle like a walking stick. “Don’t reckon I did. What is it?
“They’re comin’ home.”
But not that much excitement. Chills attacked Theo fro the inside out. Cotton filled his mouth. His muscles went quivery, and he lost his grip on the pitchfork. It fell against the stone wall, bounced, then slid onto the pile of straw. He unstuck his tongue from the roof of his mouth and barked a nervous laugh. “You’re makin’ up stories. My cousins got a twelve-year sentence for that attempted robbery. They’ve only been gone ten.” He knew, because he’d served the same number of years laboring as hard as four men to atone for robbing his aunt and uncle of their sons.
Do you see a big difference between Jen Turano’s and Kim Vogel Sawyer’s excerpts? What do you hear that’s very different?
Jen's sample showed a young woman who felt like an outsider, and we could hear her trepidation in the observations she was making. Kim's sample showed a man who was definitely an insider—he had more knowledge about the situation than he let on. Each character was about to step out of their comfort zone, and each author spun their story from very different perspectives.
Can you see the difference in style, personal observations, author’s passions, and beliefs in these two samples? Can you glimpse their worldview through the settings and their characters' reactions? I think so. Both authors have a very distinctive voice.
Be sure to come back next Tuesday for part three. I've got some more wonderful samples to examine and some tips on developing your voice.
What observations do you have about Jen's and Kim's author voice?
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