This week’s video touches on a few of the differences between authorial and character voices and offers suggestions for finding a unique sound for each character’s voice.
Agents agree: the single most important factor in getting their attention is a strong, unique, and personality-heavy narrative voice. Voice is what defines both your story and your narrating character. Think of voice as kind of like your story’s unique fingerprint. If your book were a band, this would be the sound that makes it recognizable. So, if narrative voice is so important, how are you going to go about creating one?
Voice is much debated—and much misunderstood. Too often, our definitions of it end up being nebulous and air-fairy. When it comes to the author’s voice, this is more or less true. The style we develop over the years is something that’s not necessarily conscious to any great degree. The narrative voice that’s unique to each book, however, is something else again. What
I’m talking about isn’t so much finding your voice as author (although that will come as a result). It’s about finding your characters’ voices.
We can perfectly understand a character in our heads and in our outlines, but when we actually start putting him onto the page, his personality—and thus his voice—can prove elusive. Not only is this frustrating in its own right, it can complicate the decision of which POV is best for the story.
So how do you figure it out? Unfortunately, there’s really no quickie answer to this. Experience is the best teacher. And the only way to gain experience is to experiment. So before you even start that first draft, just rip off a bunch of practice scenes. Play around with all your possible POV characters. Write them happy, write them sad. Write them in first person, write them in third. Write a throwaway scene in which you don’t have to worry about plot or pacing or any of that, and just dig down under the surface of these characters until—bammo!—you find the unique sound that brings them to life on the page.