Friday, August 13, 2010

Voices in my head

Alright, so everyone always talks about needing voice in your stories.  And your story has voice, right?  I mean, there is a character and he talks and has original thoughts.  Everyone will love him/her!  I've been reading for what seems like forever, and recently, with my internship and all the reading I'm doing, I thought I knew what voice was.

Now, under my list of job titles and achievements, you might notice that "writer/author" is not present.  Before you say "wow, she really doesn't understand our side of the story since she doesn't write", I'll tell you that I do write, but just for me and a friend and not for the goal of publication.  A while ago, I finally finished my first full length novel, and sent it to a friend for him to read (since then it's gone through seven rewrites).  Well, he only read about ten pages and all he could say was "I don't know who this character is."  I batted the comment away like a pesky mosquito, thinking "you're an engineering major, you don't know what you are talking about" (which I'm sure plenty of writers do).  But the other day I was sitting in my car, delaying going into work by listening to my book on tape.  Now, not only does this book have the best first line and title I've ever come across, but it has voice.  And I got a light bulb turned on right over my head: my character has no voice.

Well, there it is again.  Voice.  What is it?  Well, other than the personality we see when the character interacts with other characters and responds to certain situations, there is a certain inner monologue.  Now, this can be third person, first person, even second person.  But the narrator needs a voice.  The characters need thoughts.  They can be sassy, crazy, sarcastic, deeply wounded and dark... anything really.  (More on character quirks in a subsequent blog)

Your homework, read a book.  Pick up your favorite book, a book you haven't read, something on the best seller list, but read with voice in mind.  What are you learning about this character when he/she is not interacting with others?  What does his/her inner monologue sound like?

And try this: after you finish reading, put the book down and think "Do I remember what POV it was in?"  For a full five minutes I couldn't remember if I had written my story in third or first person (warning bells), and another manuscript I'm reading right now I had forgotten if it was first or third (warning lights).  So go find your voice, stick it in your story, have someone read it, and ask them "Who is my character?"

No comments: