I've been thinking a lot about voice lately. Now, before I go in detail, let me just say that it's - thankfully - raining here today. Why thankfully? Well, my office closed at Noon on Friday. It was a holiday weekend and we close at Noon on Friday's of a holiday weekend. Wo0-hoo. So, I get home and Frank is digging up the front yards. Being the nice, generous, somewhat snarky, person that I am, I offered to help. I spent the afternoon with my hands in the dirt. Yesterday was a repeat experience as we landscape the new sidewalk we had put in. The point is - no time for writing. Seriously, up at 6 AM yesterday, grocery store, back home, out in the yard, plant run, back in the yard - oh, crap, I've got to get cleaned up or I'm going to be late, and then not back to the house until after 9. So, writing has not existed for me this weekend.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. Voice. Does voice (yes, I think the word needs italics) exist in every book?
To some extent . . . yes. To a greater extent . . . no! WTH? Let me explain. There is VOICE that shines brilliantly forth. Go here to read An Offering of Vines by Lady Glamis. Her VOICE shines through brilliantly. Sometimes, however, the voice is far more subtle and almost not noticeable. Tolkien is a prime example of this smaller voice. I'm currently reading The Fellowship of the Ring. There is not, at least to me, a distinct voice but rather a simple telling of a complex tale. This simple telling of a tale versus a voice started the old brain cells synapsing this morning, and inspired this post.
The rapidly (at least I hope it was rapidly) synapsing brain cells created this question: Is voice more important than the characters we create?
Where in the heck am I going with this? Well, I think sometimes the voice of the author shines through in the characters they create, the interactions of the characters, the snarky nature of the characters, rather than in the narrative of the story. No, I haven't lost my mind or put Bailey's in my coffee. Sometimes, the VOICE is in everything. I think this is easy to do when writing in first person, as Lady Glamis did here. In third person, for me at least, it's hard to maintain such a voice for the duration of a novel. I think sometimes, the voice we want has to shine through in our characters rather in the long, narrative passages that tell the story we want to tell.
We focus so much on finding our voice that I think we get lost in the complexity of what is voice? I don't worry about voice in my rough draft. I just go with the flow and write. Somewhere along the way the voice calls out to me. Somewhere along the way, I write a sentence like this . . . The fairy godmother (okay, it was a drag queen dressed as Glinda the Good Witch) waved her magic wand and solved all the problems of the Universe. Yes, voice exists in this sentence. I wasn't aiming for a particular voice, it just sort of happened. More often than not, I think my voice shines through in my characters.
Is this wrong? Am I violating some rule of writing that nobody told me about? Or, are we, as writers, misinterpreting the ideal of voice and agonizing, fretting, diving into the pool of angst, for no reason? Should we let our writing flow instinctively? Should we stop trying so hard to find our voice and just let our voice find us?
Now, I'm currently working on a project (well, I have the beginnings of an idea, a cast of characters, and a murder) where the tone is very laid-back and the voice is very irreverent, quirky, and a bit snarky. Go figure. I know I have an uphill battle ahead of me writing this in third person and trying to maintain the quirkiness, irreverence, and snark throughout the entire project. This will be one of those manuscripts where the voice is evident in every word.
So, what are your struggles with voice? Do you think every book you read has a distinct voice? Do you notice it right away? Or, is the voice more subtle most of the time? Does Mary Higgin's Clark write with a distinct voice? Janet Evanovich? Well, yes she does, but again, this is one of those instances where I think the voice is more in the characters. Tolkien? Guy Gavriel Kay? Tolstoy? Dickens? All of us aspiring writers in the blogsphere? Should we focus more on the voice of our characters?