I’ve been dividing my time, working on a lot of different projects lately. One project is a supernatural fantasy series. One is a suspense. One is an unrelated, quirky suspense series. One is a quirky romantic suspense. And one is a nonfiction spiritual book.
All of the fiction has common elements that are inherent to my work: suspense, a little mystery, a little romance. The tone changes to best suit the story. The voice remains the same.
It does in the nonfiction, too.
Which makes one think it’d be glaringly apparent that voice is our unique trait that we bring to the table in our writing. But that isn’t always so apparent to us. (Think can’t see the forest for the trees here.)
But voice is voice, and unless we write the way we talk–versus the way we think (before the censors kick in)–our voice comes through in the work whether or not we realize it.
This is significant to writers. Voice is the singular thing that separates us from every other writer and makes it impossible for anyone else to tell our exact same story. We make a lot of choices in writing. What goes in, what stays out, what motivates people to do what they do, the way they do it, when and how they do it. Voice is our salable commodity.
So our voice must be protected. We can’t allow others–including those very well-meaning and trying to help us–edit our voice out of our work. I see this happen a lot, especially with newer writers who haven’t yet found their writing feet.
But even experienced writers can be nipped by that trap. And even more dangerous to them, so far as being successful at selling what they write, they can fall victim to not matching their voice to what they’re writing.
This truth didn’t become glaringly apparent to me in my own work. I first noticed it by reading others’ work. Actually, I think I was judging a writing competition when it slapped me up side the head and said, “Notice this!”
But once I had noticed, it was easy to see the value of matching voice and content. Some of us drift naturally to it. Some don’t. Some haven’t yet discovered what is natural to them.
A writer has muscles in voice that s/he can flex. This is what enables some to write in several genres successfully. Or many eras of time and still sound true to each of them.
I write in many genres and voices. I have writer friends whose range starts at Young Adult novels and extends through suspense, through Chick Lit and into paranormal realms. This isn’t uncommon, particularly for writers who have been writing a while and have exercised those muscles so that they better control them.
Yet if you look at those writers’ bodies of work, you’ll notice that common threads exist. In my work, those threads are: suspense, mystery and romance. And you’ll notice that regardless of genre, the way I structure a novel remains constant. Not the story or the characters or setting but the bones–the structure.
So while the voice muscles stretch or contract and loom large or soft, the voice is intact.
The reason is I’ve overcome the censor and write the way I think. Bare-bones honest. Which means I can write in a way that comes natural to me and shift the focus (from suspense to mystery or to romance) to determine genre and tone.
And all of this is a means to make myself understood when I say that writers get into trouble is when they don’t write naturally, matching their voice to the targeted genre.
Often writers do gravitate toward writing books like those they enjoy reading. Often writers do gravitate toward writing books that are in harmony with their author theme (like I do with healing books. In all of them, regardless of genre, people heal.) And often writers gravitate toward writing their books in the manner other successful books in that genre have been written.
That’s all good. But if the writer does all that deliberately and makes sure that the voice in the novel matches the genre, then s/he has added additional tools to the writing arsenal.
As a writer, you don’t want to be exactly like another writer. You want to be unique because the world already has that other writer. It doesn’t have you. That said, you want your marketable commodity, your voice, to accurately reflect the work in its best light.
You can have a great book, but if you manipulate your voice to women’s fiction, then your content shouldn’t read like horror. Your content should read like women’s fiction. Or your voice should be manipulated to horror. The two should match.
I reviewed a short passage of work for a friend this morning, and this gem was crystal clear in it. A wonderful literary voice. Magical literary voice. But the content wasn’t literary. Such a shame. The piece was good. But if the content had matched the voice, it would have been great.
Reminders to us all to break-through!
©2007, Vicki Hinze