Wednesday, June 23, 2010

finding my voice

In my recent writing, I've been thinking a lot about voice. Both narrative voice and writing style. I've been working on a particular manuscript for awhile now, only to realize that I should be working on a different character's story. But in telling the new story, I have had to totally rethink how I write.

The first character is very much me. She is dialogue focused and action driven. The second character is kind of a quiet observer, something that I am not. So how will I be able to write two stories about two totally different characters yet still be me?

Every writer puts more than a little of themselves in what they write, drawing upon their own experiences and desires to build a three-dimensional character and relatable plot. And because people are complex and have multiple personality facets, a writer can create one character who is outspoken and gregarious and yet another who is sullen and introverted.

A great example of this is Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which provides us with a litany of distinct characters in a single volume. Yet each story keeps to Chaucer's style--the Wife of Bath obviously being penned by the same author who created the Squire.

A more modern example of this same concept is Laurie Halse Anderson, who manages to publish consistently stellar contemporary YA novels, historical fiction and picture books. Twisted is even narrated by an ostracized teenage boy while Chains is told from the perspective of a young slave girl during the American Revolution.

If only I could crawl into the heads of great authors and figure out how they did it (and still do it). These characters in my head so want to be released onto the page. I just hope I am able to do them justice.

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