If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

Here are the upcoming WWK interviews for the month of July!

July 4th Christopher Huang, A Gentleman's Murder

July 11th V. M. Burns, The Plot Is Murder

July 18th Edith Maxwell (Maddie Day), Death Over Easy

July 25th Shari Randall, Against The Claw

Our July Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 7/7--Mary Feliz, 7/14--Annie Hogsett, 7/21--Margaret S. Hamilton, 7/28--Kait Carson.

Our special bloggers for the fifth Monday and Tuesday of July--Kaye George and Paula Gail Benson.

Please welcome two new members to WWK--Annette Dashofy, who will blog on alternative Sundays with Jim Jackson, and Nancy Eady, who will blog on every fourth Monday. Thanks for blogging with us Annette and Nancy!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Annette Dashofy's Uneasy Prey was released in March. It is the sixth Zoe Chambers Mystery. The seventh, Cry Wolf, will be released on September 18th. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Annette on September 19th.

Carla Damron's quirky short story, "Subplot", was published in the Spring edition of The Offbeat Literary Journal. You can find it here: http://offbeat.msu.edu/volume-18-spring-2018/

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), was published on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here. He's working on Seamus McCree #6 (False Bottom)

Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in July 31, 2018.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What the #&%! is Voice?

Earlier this year I was asked to give a small speech at a friend’s birthday party. Unfortunately, I had a sore throat made worse by the dry air and high altitude of Denver. As I began speaking, my voice cracked and squawked like an angry Macaw stuck in a cage. Amplified by the mic, audible screeches rolled over the audience in waves, assaulting the ears of ninety people. Was that really my voice? Needless to say, I cut my talk short and slunk back to my seat.  

This incident made me consider my writing voice. What exactly is “voice”? Do I have one and if not, how do I find it? When I returned home from my trip I read books and blogs and more books trying to make sense of this concept. While I have learned some things, honestly, I’m still confused.

What I do understand is that voice is a writer’s signature. In order to put our personality on the page, it’s important not to emulate other writers. There are several ways to do this such as making sure the language we use is our own. Also, banishing the inner critic and avoiding a safe (beige) voice can help bring out our unique way of viewing the world. Some authors even caution against reading while writing because another writer’s style can creep into ours.

But what is the difference between voice and style? This is where it begins to get hazy for me and apparently for other people. One author wrote that, “Voice is part of style” and another just the opposite, “Style is part of voice.” Yet a third, “Voice is style, but not only style.” And my favorite, “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.”

Befuddled, I turned to my Screenwriting for Dummies book for clarification. The author wrote, “Your voice stems from imagination; style stems from knowledge of craft.” Apparently voice is what we want to communicate and style is the technique and language used to communicate those ideas.

So, what’s the best way to discover my unique voice? I searched high and low but couldn’t find a good answer. One book suggested I ask myself questions such as, “If your voice was a drink, what drink would it be?” Well, sometimes my voice seems tart and salty, like a Margarita, although it can be light, clear and bubbly like seltzer water. Another exercise was to sing a paragraph of my story then decide if it sounded like rock, folk, opera, rap etc. Truthfully, it can be any of those depending on how I sing it--which begs the question…

Does a writer have just one voice? What if someone writes in different mystery genres like cozy and hardboiled that are at opposite ends of the spectrum? One author wrote that we have a number of voices in us. Another thought that we have just one voice but there are many choices within that one voice. He believed “tone” allows flexibility and variety in a writer’s voice. (Maybe like a child’s soft indoor voice versus the deafening one used on the playground?)

After all my research I understand voice somewhat better, but I’m still perplexed and frustrated by the concept. Perhaps the best advice I read was that while the issue of voice is important, it’s nothing to lose sleep over.

What is your definition of voice? How did you find your voice?


Paula Gail Benson said...

Kara, thank you for sharing your insights. I like the idea that writers can have different voices depending on the style they wish to convey. Maybe what attracts readers to an author is familiarity of the voice.

E. B. Davis said...

Voice to me is a character's voice, which can encompass style.

For example, if you were writing about a character from the past, his voice might be formal and his word choice much different than a modern day character, and the style of writing probably should be eloquent.

Or the voice could be composed of a colloquial accent combined with attitude, as in, "Those gosh, durn varmints got into the flour. Mess jess everywhere." To me--that's voice. It's the character. Unless an author uses a narrator, I really don't want to "hear" the author's voice. The author should disappear and let her characters speak.

Style--I still don't understand so you aren't alone.

Gloria Alden said...

This is a good topic, Kara, and as you say a little hard to define. When I was in college as an older nontraditional student, I had more than one professor tell me my voice was like Dorothy Day's. I didn't know who she was. So I bought a book of her essays that I never did get around to reading, but I did discover she was an important activist in the late 40s and later who was important in working for civil rights, equal employment opportunities and racial justice.

Like E.B. says, voice can take on the character and may change from book to book to book. My protag in my gardening series sounds nothing like the main character in my short story "Mincemeat is for Murder" that I'm posting here for next week.

As for characters taking on the author's voice, well I think that's rather common and it doesn't bother me. I've bought numerous mysteries by authors I've come to know or heard speaking on panels at conventions and when I read their books, I hear their voice in my mind, especially with their main character. Maybe it's my imagination, I don't know.

As for not reading while writing because you may copy the author's voice your reading, I'm not sure. It does seem there were a lot who were trying to write like Janet Evanovich, but their books never quite gripped me. It was too obvious, but I think it was a conscious decision on their part to try and write like her, and they couldn't quite capture her voice. So read on because I think the voice is like Kara said, largely in your imagination.

Maybe I should get out that book of Dorothy Day essays and start reading it. :-)

Kara Cerise said...

Gail, you make a good point. The voice of the author can attract and retain readers. When you pick up a Stephen King book you know what you are going to get. I think his voice may have helped define the horror genre.

Kara Cerise said...

E.B., I didn’t consider a character’s actual voice being part of the definition of “voice”. And it’s so important! Perhaps some writers intentionally have their characters speak for them in order to get across a point or belief in an entertaining, fictional setting.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles with some of these terms.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I have a bit different take on voice.

Although each character does have his or her own voice (which makes them unique), I think each author develops writing characteristics that belong solely to them, and that is their voice.

Writers who will not read other authors because they believe it will infect them are not yet confident with their own voice. It is still too soft for them to automatically hear, and so they need to cloister that part of their minds against infection while writing.

Voice is the timbre and rhythm of our writing, our choice of words, the way we use similes or metaphors.

Just as you can tell a friend from a distance by the way she walks, or holds her head or expressively uses her hands, so you can tell a writer who has found her voice by her choice of words.

Part of most writers' problems in finding their voice is that throughout school we learn by others' examples. And so we naturally look to our idols to learn to write -- which is great for techniques and style, but loses the bit that is individually you.

Each writer has a unique voice, but that voice is dressed up to fit the needs of the story. You may don pointy cowboy boots for a western romance and goth rags for dystopian. Those works will not have a lot of similarities, but at the core they still have you. If you are like many writers who claim to write, "because I have to," it starts with the stories and the genres you choose to write.

Well that's my two cents and worth every penny of it, if I do say so myself.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

When I blogged about what is style, I thought that those things Jim mentioned were what style was supposed to be, not voice. Now I'm confused too!

Kara Cerise said...

Gloria, I think it’s interesting that you actually hear an author’s voice in the main character. I haven’t had that experience but will pay closer attention when I read a book after meeting the author.

Please let us know if you read the Dorothy Day essays and if you think her voice is similar to your voice.

Kara Cerise said...

Thank you for your definition, Jim. I like your explanation about how each writer has a unique voice that is dressed up to fit the needs of the story. Also, I will take your advice to heart about how finding voice begins with the stories and genres we choose.

But like E.B., I’m still confused about style versus voice. But then it sounds like everyone has a slightly different opinion of what the two mean.

Alyx Morgan said...

I'm just as lost as you were, Kara, with regards to voice & style. In fact, I honestly don't understand how one can define their writing voice other than to say "it's how I write." (insert shoulder shrug here)

I'm glad you're a little more clear on the topics, because that gives me hope that I'll understand them someday, too.

Carla Damron said...

What's funny to me is that this blog has a very STRONG VOICE!!!

Kara Cerise said...

I still don’t fully grasp voice or style, Alyx. But I have decided not to be concerned about understanding the terms and, instead, focus on what I can do. Taking Jim’s advice, my first step will be to analyze why I enjoy the stories and genres that intrigue me. Then I’ll go from there. Maybe I’ll be smacked with sudden insight.

Kara Cerise said...

Thank you, Carla :)

Anonymous said...

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