Sunday, April 10, 2011

Finding Your Writing Voice Style

Often when writing teachers discuss the topic of voice in fiction, there are very iffy, ambiguous definitions associated with it. You hear a lot of them saying, "It can't really be described, but you know it when you see it," and "you can't really teach voice." I beg to differ, I believe all objects in existence can be broken down conceptual, and when we can't, we are just being lazy.

To start, I want to identify several areas, that when linked together, form the overall concept of voice. I'm attempting to come to a philosophical definition of voice, so that as writers, we can use it as a working model to help others, and better our own "voice."

Firstly, we have the objective world that the story takes place in. This includes the history, the culture, the environments and all the characters in the piece. This is important to know as an author because you can't develop a plot or a protagonist, if you don't know the objective facts of your world. Once you know these, then its time to narrow down. But take note, some beginner authors stick here. They tell their story from an objective point of view, which leads to a very boring story.

Secondly, we have the protagonist. Your character has a particular "world view" of the objective world. They don’t know the objective world, because human beings can never know their world completely objectively. There will always be subjectivity in any perception of your environment. So you must know your characters subjective view of this existence. What do they like? What do they believe? What are their values? their history? Who is this person and what makes them who they are? This is important, because its this information that creates a "Point of View". You must have a POV of that existence, because its HUMAN to have one, and its this point that creates engagement with a HUMAN reader.

Thirdly, you have an author. As I wrote earlier, a new writer will skip the second point altogether. They will just have a flat character, who almost works as a piece of cardboard floating around in the objective world, with no real point of view. But a good author will internalize this point of view, they will inhabitant it, and live in, and adopt all the entire subjective viewpoint of the main character. The author must then work, almost as a best friend, or fan of the main character. They must be the characters cheer leader, and have the same world view. This is what voice is, its "expressing the POV of the character authentically." When the author adopts the POV of the character, and communicates authentically from that POV, and ONLY that POV, the author’s words will be aligned with the characters words.

For example, if John hates the school nurse, and thinks she is a grumpy old bitch, and then the author will express something such as, "John sat down. He couldn't believe the grumpy old bitch was still there, had she not died yet?" This is voice in action, and it exists because the author saw an objective world, narrowed it down to a subjective view that was owned by a particular character, internalised this point of view, and expressed authentically from it.

Lastly, we have the reader. What does the reader want out of a story? Well, if he or she is the norm, they want to take a adventure, or a series of dramatic events that moves them emotionally in some way. For a reader to be moved, they have to feel connected to the story, and this is achieved when they are connected to a HUMAN point of view. If the character has a personal view of existence, and the author has internalized this point of view, and expressed authentically from it, when the reader reads the book, they will identify with the view because it’s a human POV, and thus, feel moved by it.

Concept of voice created. Hope this break down helps.


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