Thursday, June 4, 2009

Author, Rich Wallace on Voice: What are your favorite "voice" books? - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Here's that mysterious word writers hear about all the time.


It's a crucial element in a manuscript but it's a confusing term. It's hard to wrap our minds around of what "voice" really means. I've found it very helpful to listen to those in the "know" talk about their take on what "voice" is.

Last year about this time I got to hear editor, Martha Mihalik's explaination of "Voice"

This year I got to hear the perspective of a successful author, Rich Wallace. Rich had some awesome points and gave great examples as well.

If I were to boil down Rich's advice, I'd say that


How do your characters show their unique perspective of the world and their thoughts through the words that you choose?

Here was Rich's advice on developing "Voice":

1) Develop a unique eye that makes a scene different.
An example that I can think of from this is Judy Blundell's description of the moon from "What I Saw and How I Lied" A FAT CUSTARD MOON WAS SPLAT IN THE PURPLE SKY.
I think Judy nailed the "unique scenery description" with that one!

2) Research dialogue in specific regions in order to may your dialogue believable.
He uses author (I don't know if I copied her name correctly, so I will refrain from using it) as an example. This author drives around area's, gets out of her car and simply listens and looks for the local oddities that make the area unique. She'll go into bars and listen to how the locals talk to one another.

One of my personal recent examples would be Ingrid Law, author of SAVVY where just one sentence gives you a sense of the characters speech.
"I had liked it with a mighty kind of liking." Ch 1

3) Develop and eye for details that make a person unique.

Mr. Wallace used the example of Susan Orlean who developed a unique sense of personal details by traveling with a group of gospel singers.

An example that I can think of is from "The book Without Words" by Avi

Ch 2 "Everything about Mistress Weebly was small: small body; small face; small gimlet eyes; small nose. Her smallness was emphasized by her being dressed in an overlarge, soiled gown of green that reached her ankles - sleeves pinched at her wrists, apron over all, wimple on her head. It was as if she had been dropped into a dirty sack and was spying out from it. Indeed, the womans only largeness was her curiosity."

I just love that one!!!

What about you? Do you have any authors in mind that have mastered any of these elements of voice?


Jacqui said...

I loved the voice in Savvy.

Lately, in our house, we're all about Toad's voice from Frog and Toad. So few words, but such hilarity.

Kelly said...

Great example by Avi!
I love Junie B. Jones voice. Love it. Voice is so important to connect with the character. Great post, Christy!

PJ Hoover said...

I've been meaning to read Savvy.
I love the voice in the Percy jackson books. It's one of my favorites.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Like PJ, I LOVE Percy Jackson's voice. He has a wry sense of humor, he doesn't detail you to death, but picks out the best details and makes them so vibrantly visual.

Hey, I just noticed the initials. No wonder PJ likes PJ :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

Oh, and I loved Savvy. Mibs had a distinct voice without being weird. Great book.

Bish Denham said...

I haven't read Savvy yet, but it sure sounds like I need to!

C.R. Evers said...

Jacqui, yes, Toad is adorable. We've into him in our house too. :0)

Thnx Kelly. Junie B. is awesome. It's amazing how kids of all ages love her!

PJ & Sherri, I haven't read anything of Percy Jackson! I better get on the ball and get to the library!

Bish, it's a very cute book and also a fairly quick read. It's worth it! Very creative.

Carrie Harris said...

The voice in Feed is the one that always sticks out to me. From sentence one, I knew that kid, plain and simple.

Makes me gnash my teeth in envy, really. :)

C.R. Evers said...

Carri, there's another one I haven't read yet! I've got to put that on my TBR list too! Thnx!

Angela said...

These are great! And so true!

Voice is a tough one to get a handle on. I find that sometimes I think I've got it nailed, and then other times..urgh!

C.R. Evers said...

Angela, I agree. Sometimes nailing down voice is like trying to herd cats. ;0)

Angela said...

two recent reads:
WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS by Fran Cannon Slayton and ELIJAH OF BUXTON by Christopher Paul Curtis.

Love the voice.

Love how voice shows us both setting and character.

Angela said...

two recent reads:
WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS by Fran Cannon Slayton and ELIJAH OF BUXTON by Christopher Paul Curtis.

Love the voice.

Love how voice shows us both setting and character.

Christina Farley said...

These are all great examples. I loved Violet Raines and Canned. Both well written and such great characters.