Monday, November 21, 2011

Voice Choice

Do we have a choice with our voice? Not the one we speak with, but the one we write with. Are our voices an integral part of us - like our vocal voice?

My main characters vary depending on my story and the age level I'm aiming at. A 10 year girl testing out a new planet for the first time has a very different voice from a 30 year old man working on a cattle ranch. If not, I'm doing something wrong! :)

But my voice stays kind of the same throughout. I use the same mix of long and short sentences. I adore sentence fragments and they show up everywhere. I have a lot of short paragraphs - often one liners - no matter what genre I'm writing. None of my paragraphs go on for very long.

My sense of humour stays the same and probably shows up in the same way. I'm not a huge fan of reading or writing description, so that's going to be consistent as well.

There are changes with each story of course, because the main characters have a lot to say in the story, but I think my voice remains more or less the same.

And I'm okay with that. Will I ever get to this point?

Probably not, but I'd like to!

What about you, does your voice change with your stories, or does it remain the same no matter what you're writing?

53 comments:

  1. I tend to challenge myself with voice by adding some kind of ethnic background, where I end up researching certain phrases or slang. Age definitely plays a role in voice as well.

    I do tend to be descriptive with my writing voice, but I am trying to vary the sentence length. (Hugs)Indigo

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  2. Indigo - that's an awesome idea! I tend to use ethnicities I know pretty well (being a teacher helps in that department). I like adding regional slang too :)

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  3. I'm brief on description, short on complicated words. I don't do incomplete sentences though. I've stuck with the dame character so far and my voice has had to change.

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  4. Alex - that dame is really giving you fits! :) My characters' voices are very different from each other, but I think my overall voice kind of stays the same. :)

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  5. I've thought about this, too. I find that I adopt different voices depending not only on the character I'm portraying (assuming I'm portraying one) but also on the genre I'm writing; my political commentary voice is much different than my storytelling voice, for instance. I think the voice I blog with, and the one with which I fill my personal journals, is most recognizably mine.

    So it says in your profile that you like to write YA Steampunk. Do you ever post any of it? I'm on the lookout for interesting projects to read and showcase on my blog.

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  6. Searching - I find a lot of similarities in my voice in all of fiction and nonfiction - except when I'm being formal (not my normal style at ALL!) :)

    I actually don't post any of my work online - superstitious I guess! :) Thanks for the thoughts though!

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  7. Great post!

    Hmm, to answer your question--yes and no. Since I write in first person I try to take on my characters' voices as much as possible, but I think it always comes back to ME somehow, like you said. Right now I'm trying to get a country boy's voice right. It's hard!!

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  8. Thanks Amy! :)

    Good point about 1st person. I NEVER write in 1st - it always sounds awkward and fake. I'm so impressed by people who can pull it off! I bet you make a terrific country boy! :)

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  9. I think my voice stays the same no matter what story I'm writing. However, I can't say I'm satisfied with my writing voice -- mostly because I'm still in the process of finding and refining it.

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  10. Emy - I wonder if our voice is a destination or a never ending journey. I think it probably develops and grows as we do. At least I hope so! :)

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  11. I think you have a valid point about the author's voice as opposed to the characters. It's a sort of style and comfortable place each of us has with language, I think. Whereas my characters have pretty distinct voices from each other.

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  12. Tricia - I agree. My characters definitely have their own voices - but I think they exist within my own voice ... if that makes any sense. :)

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  13. I dont' know about voice. But with a radically different kind of story, I've seen style, tone, wording change. I'm sure it's still there though.

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  14. Laura - that's what I'm wondering. I think our individuality is linked to our voice - and that's what shines through no matter what genre we write in. :)

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  15. Hmm, I never really thought about it this way, but I think my voice stays fairly consistent in the different genres I write. I'll have to pay more attention to this!

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  16. Kelley - it's interesting, isn't it? I like the different genres, but a lot of things stay the same. :)

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  17. I love sentence fragments too! I think my writing voice stays the same.

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  18. I think my writer's voice stays the same, but I certainly hope my character voices change.

    And I love my sentence fragments!

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  19. I think I tend to do something similar. What I wish I could do better is change voice in dialog. Everyone sounds too much the same. Gotta work on that aspect a bit more.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  20. Yes, I think my writerly voice stays the same even when my character voices change.

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  21. I suppose mine stays the same as well - the faces change but the voice stays - tweaked here and there as applicable! Take care
    x

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  22. Yvonne - yay! A lot of people despise sentence fragments, but I like the emphasis they can give :)

    Stephanie - that makes 3 of us on the fragments! :)

    Lee - changing the voice for characters - both in dialogue and narration - can be a bit of a challenge, can't it!

    Lynda - it took me a while to 'get' the difference between my voice and my characters' voices - but now I can see the distinction! :)

    Old Kitty - I think voice is tricky to identify - but I think we have overall tendencies that stay the same no matter what! :)

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  23. What you refer to as voice and character I think of as voice and style. My written voice changes with each WIP. It has to though . . . I write cross genre in first person POV. The voice in my male POV YA Speculative Fiction is quite different from my female POV YA Contemporary piece. That said, my style stays the same. Whether I am writing YA Contemporary, Spec. Fiction, or Sci-fi my characters all have a certain edge, a gritty, sarcastic nature to them. That "tone" for lack of a better word, is inherent in everything I write.

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  24. I'm guessing if I sent my critique partners a manuscript without my name on it, they probably could tell it was written by me. But I think it is more the tone of my voice than anything. I do think my characters take on their own voices. (fingers crossed)

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  25. The fact is, I want everyone else to love my voice! :) I work hard at making sure my characters are unique, but you can't change the DNA of your writing. :)

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  26. Aha, I've been told I write with a Canadian accent, eh :) So, even though I have no idea what I'm talking 'aboot', my 'voice' stays the same, or maybe not.

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  27. Great post. I think my voice stays the same when I'm writing (and my style sounds a lot like yours.) I work at making sure the character voices are different from mine and different from each other.

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  28. Great thought-provoking post. I think my voice changes drastically with every story I write. My style, however, is relatively static.

    Does that make sense to anyone but me?

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  29. Such a great question. I wondered that myself but I think that, while the characters end up with their individual voices, our writing "voice" is more of a style. I can usually hear an author's style, even if they're writing completely different characters (does that make sense? It's been a long day.).

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  30. My voice has become more defined over the years, but I don't think it's really changed. It's that I'm more comfortable breaking the rules these days. For example, fragments? Not a problem. :)

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  31. Trisha - yes! That's what I meant - it's hard to know what to call everything. But I agree - the voice of the characters dictates their sections, but my style/voice remains :)

    Sharon - I cross my fingers for that too! I'd hate to have my 10 year old girl and 30 year old man have the same sound!

    DL - that's a fabulous way of expressing exactly what I was trying (rather clumsily) to say!! Thank you :)

    Gary - I love that you've got a Canadian accent! Can't take the Canadian out of the boy... :)

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  32. Elaine - I work at making my characters different too - it works best when I 'am' that character! :)

    Cat - I think that's a great way of expressing it. I THINK we mean the same thing without saying the same words... :)

    Mary - you're the 3rd one to use 'style' instead of voice - and I think I like it that way better!

    VR - I love those fragments - when used effectively they can convey a TON of emotion or emphasis. :)

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  33. My main characters speak to ME quite differently (in my head). They all have their own personalities, their favorite turns of phrase -- and I'd like to think those differences come out in their narratives.

    However, there HAVE to be some strong similarities, since they are all evolving from me. I certainly hope my characters' narratives can be distinguished from one another, but I guess that's for the reader to determine.

    That said, my characters don't DEVELOP their own voices until I'm well into the book -- which means I have to go back and rewrite the earliest chapters once I discover that voice. I'm starting a new project today, in fact, so I'm very aware of this.

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  34. Dianne - good point. I've often reworked the first sections of my stories as well, once I get to know the characters better. Those pet phrases and ways of speaking really do develop quite naturally as we write.

    It's not infallible, but I've used the Gender genie site to check that my male/female characters come off correctly. :)

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  35. I'm like you. I think there's a certain rhythm to my writing that's uniquely Anita. It's how I vary sentence length and choose my words, it's where I place my commas and how I end a paragraph. Very cool stuff, really. I think there must be a way, a real method, by which people can be recognized by their writing. I'll let the tech guys discover that one. :)

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  36. Anita - I agree! I think that our voices/styles are unique! They probably could be figured out by some kind of science (or magic!) formula - but I'll leave that to others as well. I like the thought of being recognizable at some point... :)

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  37. Great question. I think in general it stays the same. Even when I write verse...

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  38. Michelle - I hadn't thought of verse, but I think you're right. I don't write a lot of poetry, but the style of what I do write echoes my novel writing style. :)

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  39. My voice pretty much stays the same. I am who I am, and I am not changing to please anyone. A people pleaser I am not!

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  40. Stephen - I agree. I think our voice will grow and evolve as we learn more, but I think at the core, it will remain 'us'. :)

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  41. I try to kind of tweak my author voice depending on the mood of the manuscript, but my humor always pokes through to some extent, and I too love those fragments. What it is with that? LOL. Hopefully my MC's voice is strong enough to make my own an undercurrent.

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  42. Lisa - we need to start a group for those of us who have a fragment obsession! :)

    I like the way you phrased that - our voices are undercurrents! That's great way to express it :)

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  43. This is the one good thing (for me) about writing memoirs; it's so easy to peg the voice. In my fantasy novels though--man I have a tough time ;)

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  44. My wip is drastically different than my last few projects, yet I detect a similar thread running through it. So I'm sure I'm sharing elements, whether I mean to or not.

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  45. Medeia - I think that's what happens to me as well. Despite the different tones and genres, there are similarities in all my pieces.

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  46. Interesting question. I think my voice of my novels tends to stay slightly the same, while the characters' voice varies slightly... if that makes sense!

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  47. Talli - that makes perfect sense to me - because I think that's exactly how my stories work too! :)

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  48. Great post!

    Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

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  49. Romance Reader - thank you! I hope yours was the same. It's amazing how fast Monday sneaks up on us! :)

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  50. Hopefully I've nailed the differences between my voice in the novel overall and the voices of my characters.

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  51. I think I'm like you - my own writer's voice seems pretty consistent. I do hope I'm infusing my characters with their own individual voices, though...

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  52. Deniz - I hope I'm doing the same thing! But there's still an overriding presence that's me. :)

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