Monday, February 8, 2010

Author's Voice, Part I

Finally getting around to a request Kay made a month-and-a-half ago -- a discussion on author's voice. There's no way to condense this into one post, so, in a GFWG first, I'm going to explore this topic over the next month, interspersed with posts of general interest to our group. Thanks for the extra work, Kay!

Most everyone knows what voice is, or at least they recognize it when they read it. It's that style that makes an author's approach and writing unique. But it's so much more than that. Yes, some author's maintain the same consistent voice throughout their works. Their readers know what to expect, and they deliver. Or, in some cases, they're incapable of doing more.

Others let the story dictate their approach. What they want to say determines voice, rather than voice determining what they have to say. There are similarities between The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but could Twain have really used the same voice to tell both stories? Huck's vernacular made it far more powerful and insightful than Tom's tale of all-American boyhood. Now, setting those two aside, what of The Prince and the Pauper or The Gilded Age? Work, genre, message, etc., as much as author preference and ability, play a role in shaping voice.

Age and experience (particularly, it seems, tragedy) shape voice, too. Writers of 40 look back on their work of a generation ago and see how it has changed. Matured, perhaps, like a two-pack-a-day smoker. Generally, and with few exceptions (though they exist -- Rumi, anyone? Not to mention Shakespeare) voice grows thicker and coarser over time.

Well, now that we've seen some of what goes into shaping voice, what are its individual parts, and how can they be used to reflect the author's ideas?

Next post.

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