Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Janet Evanovich's 15th Plum novel was released today. I, of course, picked it up at the bookstore 'cuz it's been on order for months. I also finished reading it in one sitting. Funny, it took her a year to write it and I read it in a few hours.


If Evan Hunter/Ed McBain were still alive, I'd have done the same thing with the pre-ordering and picking up on the day his latest book was released.

When I think VOICE, these two people immediately come to mind. They have totally different voices and they write about totally different things. They don't need to have their names affixed to a piece of work for me to recognize them, however. Their perspectives of the world are unique, as are those of their characters.

A lot of blogs have been discussing the topic Plot or Character lately and for me, it's always been VOICE. The plot could be the most intriguing thing to hit fiction in the past hundred years and if the author's voice doesn't grab me, I'm not interested. The character can sound appealing on the cover blurb, but if it isn't imbued with a distinctive voice, I don't really care about him or her.

Now that I think about it, Rex Stout's voice was especially strong in the Nero Wolfe series.

Voice is something editors and agents tell us we have to have, it's something we writers write about, but it's elusive. There aren't any How-Tos when it comes to Voice, as there are with POV, Plotting, Setting the Scene, etc. At least not that I've seen.

Do you have any tips or suggestions about VOICE?


  1. IMO, the voice comes from experience and from the author's personality. An author's voice can change over time, but it's a change caused by experience and perspective. Even when the author is writing in character (which isn't unusual), the voice of the author still peeks through.

    Now, how do you develop that voice? The only things that come to mind for me are...

    Risk. Don't be afraid to let your voice out. Now, I admit I temper my voice in many books and let it go full bore in a rare few. It's not unlike censoring yourself in a professional setting or around children but letting yourself go with friends. But, either way, it's still my voice.

    Too many people strangle their voices, trying to make them something they're not, trying to copy the old masters as an artist might while learning to create his/her own style. The voice is most compelling when it's really you being allowed to peek through and not a carbon of someone else.

    And...gain experience...not just writing experience but life experience. Learn to empathize. The reason you can write in character and still have the voice is that (agree with a character or not) you can empathize with the character and place their decisions into your perspective. So, never stop evolving.

  2. I totally agree that voice is what grabs me about a book--or doesn't. For the best example of the western voice that I know, try the novels of Elmer Kelton. Okay, they're not mysteries--they're western history. But all of us could take a lesson in voice from him.
    I always find voice easier in the first person, when I sort of become the character and take on their personality.

  3. Ladies,

    I appreciate your comments (especially since they coincide w/mine!). Seriously though, I've received other comments that incidate, in the writer's opinion, that readers don't care about voice - they only care about character. I guess we all read for our own reasons, so our perspetives on stuff like this is bound to differ, too. Thanks for taking the time to share!

  4. I think many readers don't consciously note voice as separate from the rest of style. They know if they like it. They know if they don't. But, It's a hard thing for many of them to put a finger on. If that makes sense.