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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: voice, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 161
26. Perfecting Your YA Voice (Part 2)

In Part 1, Editor Krista Marino explained how YA Voice is related to diction, perspective, dialog, interior monologue, and character. In this second section she explains what makes a young adult voice unique and different from an adult writing voice.

Let’s Talk about the Teen/YA Voice in Particular:

  • YA is specific in terms of voice.
  • YA is teen experience, outlook, and their limited life experiences.
  • YA is about teen beliefs, likes and dislikes, etc.
  • Think about how small your life was when you were a teenager. Remember when you believed in Santa? What did you believe when you were in high school? Did you think you were going to marry your high school boyfriend?
  • An adult looking back on the teen experience is an adult book.
  • “When you’re young everything feels like it’s the end of the world.” – movie quote. Teens have no reference to know that things will get better in their lives, where as adults bring life experiences with them.
  • Teens are not making stupid decisions. They are making their decisions because they have only been on the planet for 16 years and don’t have any life experience.
  • Teens have nothing else to compare their experiences to.
  • When you are writing you need to erase the worldliness you’ve experienced over the years.
  • Your protagonist can’t be simple.
  • Every teen is questioning how other teens view them.
  • Your character must evolve. Voice can change as a character grows and learns over the course of the book. Voice must change with the evolution and movement of the book.

Exercises to Get to Know Your Character:

  • Exercise: List three character traits about your protagonist (i.e. sassy, romantic, uptight) then push yourself to go deeper and find out who they really are under those traits.
  • Exercise: Write two pages that tell you something new about your character. These pages do not need to go into the manuscript. See what they will tell you.
  • Exercise: Go to a public place and eavesdrop on teens. Write down their conversations exactly as you hear them. Now try to use that conversation in a scene you are writing. Watch how your characters interact.

Telling about Character in the Writing:

  • Weave info about your character into the story, but make it invisible.
  • In the writing insinuate how a character looks without listing everything they are wearing. Pick a particular trait to embody a greater image of the character. Example: A character wearing skull rings.
  • You can’t assume the reader knows what is going on inside your character. You need to clue them in. Is the character tired? Excited?
  • Layer your characters actions. Stomping could mean a character is angry, but they could also be embarrassed. Sometimes more is more.
  • It’s better for someone to tell you to cut than add.
  • Beware of too much telling, it will sound like you (the author) are speaking to the reader rather than the character.

Krista Marino is a senior editor at Delacort Press where she edits and acquires young adult and middle grade novels. Books she has edited include King Dork, The Necromancer, The Maze Runner, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

1 Comments on Perfecting Your YA Voice (Part 2), last added: 10/19/2011
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27. Character Voices

Make sure your character isn't speaking in your voice. 


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28. Middle Grade Voice

Stacy Whitman of Tu Books explains what makes middle grade, middle grade. 


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29. Last Minute Novel Revisions

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I am working on a novel revision for an editor and I expect to turn it in by Monday. But today, as I was reading through one last time to polish everything up–oh, my gosh!–there’s still so much work to do.

Last Minute Revisions

At this point, it’s not major structural changes or big plot changes. Instead, I am looking to tighten every scene and make as many connections as possible. And I am polishing language and voice.

Here are some thing that I’m working on:

Connections. I noticed that K gave A something. Now, K is a minor character, and while I like K, the connection here was weak. Instead, I wondered how the story would work if C gave A that same thing. Much nicer! It brought back in a sub-plot/theme with C that I thought would never work into this part of the story.

Conflict and Tension. Yes, the mainstay of fiction is conflict and tension and you’d think I would have that right by now. Instead, I realized that I was relying on the external conflict and ignoring the internal conflict. What I needed was conflict to be within my main character, while at the same time, she is facing external problems. I had to go back paragraph by paragraph and make sure that the internal conflict was present, was related to the external problem and that it grew over the course of the story.

Pacing. I separated one long chapter into two chapters, making sure the ending of the first chapter was a cliff-hanger and the beginning of the next chapter had a good hook.

Verbs. Yes, verbs. As we all know by now, strong verbs make for good story language and a strong voice. And I was doing pretty well. But I noticed in this chapter that I was slacking off some. For example, I replaced “They stared” with “They gaped”, and later with “They gawked.” Subtle differences, yes, but important.

Characterization. I am confident that A is a strong character. But what about B, C, D, E, F, G? As I read through, I am looking for places to characterize them better.

When is a Novel Revision Finished?

Um, never. I think I could endlessly revise a novel and my friends will attest to that. But at some point, I’ve done all I can do without more feedback. With this final pass through, I’ll be at that point. It will be time to send the novel out into the world for someone to read and evaluate. Does that mean I am finished with revisions on this particular novel? Doubtful. Bu until some fresh eyes catch weak areas, I can’t see anything else to do. Soon, very soon, it will be on its way.

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30. Sentences: Control of Voice

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Creating the voice you want for your story or novel begins with Word Choices. It continues with control of your sentences. I emphasize control because many writers–well, they just write. Without consideration of sentence structures.

Sentences, as the basic building block of the written word, need careful attention. You can write long, short, simple, complex, parallel, convoluted or fragmented. Yes. Fragments work.

When do you use which sentence structure. Here’s where it helps to read your work aloud, listening for a smooth flow. Does the writing disappear and let the story come forward, or does the writing force you to stop and read again for clarity? Are there frequent stutters as the rhythm of the piece breaks down?

Where do you want the emphasis?

In Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, Joseph Williams takes a scholarly look at sentences and how to manage them. Of course, there are lessons on omitting the passive voice, creating strong subjects of sentences and making sure there is clarity throughout. He also speaks of putting the emphasis where you want it to be. For example, I often ask people to look at a paragraph and identify the most important word/phrase in that paragraph. Williams says the ends of sentences are positions of emphasis or stress. So, I ask the writers to reword the sentence and put the most important word last.

Consider the differences between these two sentences.

  1. The Revolution has begun.
  2. It was the beginning of the Revolution.

#1 is shorter and emphasizes that something has started.
#2 is longer and emphasizes there is a Revolution. It uses the “It was. . .” construction to push the important information to the end of the sentence. A careful writer would weigh the disadvantage of the weaker to-be verb with the advantage of putting the word “Revolution” in the position of stress.

The choice depends on where you want the readers to focus. It’s a choice that affects style, clarity and, of course, voice.

Here are other posts on using great sentences to create voice.

31. Voice Begins with Word Choices

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Voice begins with the right choice of words

Word choices matter!

Each story or novel has its own diction, or the group of words that could be used for this story. For example, a historical fiction would have different word choices than a romantic comedy. Of course, there’s lots of overlap, but each story has certain words that you would say are inappropriate or are exactly right. In other words, the story is a context for making choices; and each choice will affect the overall context.

  1. Word origins can make a difference: fire is a strong Anglo-Saxon word, while inferno is a Latin-based word.
  2. Length or syllable count matter: fire is single syllable, while inferno has three syllables.
  3. The connotations of words matter. Does inferno carry connotations of hell? While fire makes you think of a cozy campfire? Connotations can be personal, but they also are cultural and these nuances matter.
  4. The formality of words, from formal to informal, can change voice.
  5. Progressions–for example, comparative to superlative–also affect voice.
  6. Jargon is the specialized vocabulary for a subject: for example, in baseball, you would talk about steals, earned runs and RBIs. Slang is contemporary language that means something to today’s audience only.

Words That Mean Something Else

Classic rhetoric discusses tropes, or the ways that words are used. Sometimes we call this figurative language, but it’s mostly how the word is used. Here are some common tropes.

  1. Metaphor/Simile: Two unlike things are said to be alike. The comparison is implied for a metaphor, but explicit for a simile.
    Ex. Eating, he was a pig.
    He ate like a pig.
  2. Synecdoche: Part stand for the whole.
    Ex. He’s in trouble with the law. (Law stands for police or legal system.)
  3. Syllepsis: Use of one verb that is understood differently in relation to two or more objects.
    Ex. His boat and his dreams sank.
  4. Anthimeria: One part of speech is exchanged for another.
    Ex. They enrolled in parenting class. (Parent is a noun used as an adjective.)
  5. Periphrasis: Substitution of one or more descriptive words for a proper name.
    Ex. Blue-Eyes can croon a great tune.
  6. Personification: Attribution of human qualities to inanimate objects or abstractions.
    Ex. No one, not even rain, has such small hands. (e.e. cummings)
  7. Litotes: Use of understatement to intensify an idea. It usually involves denying the contrary.
    Ex. It isn’t very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain. —J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
  8. Oxymoron: Juxtaposition of two contradictory words.
    Ex. To win is to lose.

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32. Developing Your Writer’s Voice

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Design Star Finds Voice

Last night, I watched HGTV crown the new “Design Star,” Meg Caswell. I had watched some throughout the season and the judge’s commentary always made me think of the writer’s voice.

One of the challenges of the Design Star is to meld entertainment and solid interior design, making information fun. While they are at it, the designers must also find their “voice,” their online persona that will carry the show. Much like novelist, they must find a way to bring their personality to bear on the material.

At one point, the judges warned Karl that his “nervous laugh” was getting in the way of his performance. We have nervous laughs, too.

A common commentary–for the Design Star and the novelist–is to relax and be yourself. Yeah, right. With millions watching you expect Meg and Karl to “be themselves”? With readers flocking to your book, your story, editors expect you to be yourself? That advice is helpful? NOT!

In fact, most advice about finding your voice or improving your voice, fail me. I can’t “dig deep into myself and find things I want to express.” I can’t “let my personality flow out through the pen onto the paper.” It’s too vague. I need something solid, something to try.

The Writer’s Voice

Today, I’ll start a series about voice and how to manipulate voice. I approach it not as a mystical thing, but as a matter of practical manipulation of the elements that writers have at hand: words, sentences, passages. We will look at each of these in turn and how they fit together to create the voice of a piece of writing. Join me for the next few weeks to talk about voice.

So, really–did you want Meg or Karl to win?
And–how would you define a writer’s voice?

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33. Write a How-to Article in 6 Easy Steps

A how-to is written as a sequence—first you do this, and then you do this. The essential question the writer asks herself when writing a how-to is, “What happens next?” If you are about to embark on a how-to, start at what you consider the beginning, and just keep answering that question over and over again. Before you know it, you will have sketched out a draft of a how-to article. Read more

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34. 3 Tips for Consistent Tone

If you find yourself having a difficult time sustaining one tone over a long work, try these three tricks. Find a paragraph that sounds exactly the way you want to sound for … Read more

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35. Novel Revision: 4 Goals to Polish Your Story

It seems like all I am doing is printing out my WIP right now. Of course. Revising a novel is always a circular process.

Get it Right the First Time

Some authors get it right the first time; others claim to get it right the first time. For experienced writers, who are used to editing, it may be possible for a first or an early draft to be near perfect. Lucky you!

Creep up on Right

I am fairly experienced at novel revision and editing a text. But editing my own work is a matter of circling back, round and round, in a seemingly endless circle. I make changes here or there, but it’s hard to keep track of the flow of the story. Do those changes really do what I hope they do? Have I gone too far or not far enough?

The only way to know is to read the story again from the beginning. Or later in the novel, I can pick a chapter to read from, but it needs to be 2-3 chapter ahead of what I just edited.

Consistency. I am looking for consistency in voice and tone, and those can only be assessed when you look at longer passages.

Holes. I am also looking for holes in the story. If I indicate in Chapter 8 that a beggar is one-legged, does he suddenly grow a leg in Chapter 12. Again, I need to look at longer passages for these types of details.

Tension. I am always checking to make sure the story’s tension is as high as possible. Maybe a stronger verb will evoke stronger emotion, or maybe slight rewording will help. I’m at a fairly late stage of revising (it’s gone through several major revisions already and I’m confident of the overall structure by now) so I doubt it will need major re-structuring. Instead, this is probably some early polishing.

Pacing. I am also monitoring myself: do I get bored at any point? Where did I stop paying attention to the words? If I bore myself, then I will bore the reader. Yes, I realize that part of the boredom is that I’ve read this novel upteen times. But there are parts that I happily read multiple times; and there are parts where I struggle to read it again. It’s those places that I evaluate for pacing issues: can I omit something to speed up the story? Can I reword it to speed it up?

These are not conscious, check-off-a-list things I do, just what I try to keep in mind as I endlessly print, read, edit, print, read, edit. . .

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36. Christie Craig: Three Why Questions; Three Writing Tips

Christie Craig
Don't Mess With Texas
Publisher: Forever Books
Pub date: August 2011
Agent: Kim Lionetti

(Click to Buy)

I get a lot of questions tossed my way. For today’s guest blog, I decided to answer three of them, along with three connecting snippets of writing advice.

Why do you set all your books in fictional Texas towns?

Most people are surprised to learn that I’m not a native Texan. However, I was only here a few weeks when I knew this was where I’d hang my hat. Texas and Texans are just . . . well, unique. I mean, where else is it illegal to put graffiti on someone else's cow, shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel, or own more than six dildos? Yup, those are real laws in this fine state; I know because I checked when I decided to live here. (Not that I’m into graffitiing cows, shooting buffaloes, or stockpiling dildos. I just like to know the laws of the land, so I can poke fun at them in my books.) So I guess what drives me to base my books in Texas is that this place is one of a kind. And since I try to write one-of-a-kind books, it fits. And for what drives me to use fictional towns, that’s easy. I don’t want to worry about getting geographical facts incorrect. Okay, I’m lazy and hate research.

Writing tip #1: Using fictional towns equals less research and less hassle. You won’t get readers emailing you notes like: There isn’t a fifty-foot-high bridge in Spring, Texas, like you used in your book.

Why do you add suspense and humor to your romance novels?

Years ago, I published a sweet Silhouette Romance. Unable to sell a second book, I focused on my freelance career. I wrote words to feed knowledge-hungry individuals. I wrote about China, calligraphy, window fashions, tomato horn worms, and ugly shoes.

Basically, if an editor would pay for it, I wrote it. After an eight-year sabbatical from fiction, I was desperate to return to writing novels. I announced my intentions to my family, my friends, and to the innocent bystander at the post office: I, Christie Craig, was going to publish another book even if I had to kill somebody to accomplish it.

What I didn’t realize was that’s exactly what it would take. When I whacked my first person, guilt sat on my shoulders like a fat gorilla. But as soon as I washed the imaginary blood off my hands and reread my deadly scene, I had an epiphany: Nothing can liven up a party or a plot like a dead body.

Since then, mystery and murder are prevalent in my work. Yes, there’s other stuff like romance, but I’m not sure I can write a story without having one person kick the bucket. Or at least having someone try to kick someone else’s bucket. Death or someone facing death excites me, and that comes across in my writing.

As for the humor? A writer needs to stay true to their writing voice, and my voice is humorous. When I first started writing my funny suspense novels someone warned me that murder wasn’t funny. They’re right, but how people respond to it under duress can be a real belly-roller.

Take Nikki Hunt’s situation in Don’t Mess With Texas: Nikki thought her night couldn’t get worse when her no-good cheating ex ditched her at dinner, sticking her with the expensive bill. Furious,

34 Comments on Christie Craig: Three Why Questions; Three Writing Tips, last added: 8/29/2011
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37. Where Did the Summer Go?

Where did July and August go?

Computer Woes. First, my server has been wonky for the last two weeks–apologies. If you have any difficulty getting to pages, please send me an email so I can straighten it out (darcy at darcypattison dot com).

Travel. For me, this summer included a great two-week trip to China. Our friend of ten years was getting engaged and invited us to the engagement party. Wow, what a great trip. So much to see and do–and we did all the usual things. Beijing in July was very smoggy. But we had a couple clear days to climb the Great Wall and see the Forbidden City. My favorite part was wandering the streets, as you’ll see in this video of a street vendor blowing a caramel-sugar pig:

Research (NOT!) After China, I did research (NOT!). My friend, Dori Butler won the Edgar award this year for the best children’s mystery for her series, The Buddy Files. (IF you haven’t read them, you need to!) She’s working on a new mystery–duh! And doing research: she’s recently shot a Taurus 380 and a Glock 22.40.

Why can’t I do cool research, I wondered? So, I went and had my throat slashed. Well, technically, they called it minor surgery as they took out my thyroid. But I now have the personal experience to go with Dori’s to write that mystery thriller. Hmmm. Maybe I don’t like research so much.

Back to Normal. But all it well here in the mid-South. And I’m back in the saddle with lots of plans for fall!

Plans for Fall.

Random Acts of Publicity: By Wednesday, I’ll have the complete info posted on this fun week when it’s “All About Your Friend’s Book.”

  • And I’m planning a September series on the Writer’s Voice.
  • So, how was YOUR summer? Any interesting trips, research, writing? Please share your good news!

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    38. Long and Short: Sentences

    Importance of Sentence Variety

    My niece was here this weekend and we talked about her college writing experience. She said they try to change her habitual writing of high school into something more sophisticated. For example, they eschew the five-paragraph essay, rightly so. Instead, they look for more sophisticated structures.

    But when I teach writing, I focus on not just on structures, but on the craft of writing itself. It begins with sentences, especially with sentence variety: long, short, simple, complex, convoluted, straight forward, building with a series, stopping abruptly, or continuing forward to complete a thought.

    One of the most helpful things I ever did was work through The Art of Styling Sentences: 20 Patterns for Success. It forces you to look at sentences in all their simplicity, complexity and glory.

    For example, do you know how–it’s really easy–to interrupt a sentence with another sentence and correctly punctuate it? The patterns encourage writers to gain control of their language and punctuation, to throw fear of commas and semi-colons and colons out the window, and start writing what they want to write.

    Summer Challenge

    Summer is a challenging time for some writers because kids are home. So here’s a perfect challenge for you, a challenge that will improve your writing with very little effort!

    Are you holding back because you don’t know how to punctuate something? Try this summer challenge with a partner: each week choose a new sentence pattern and use it somewhere at least five times. Have your partner check up and make sure it was used correctly. The first few patterns are simple, but the book builds in complexity. You’ll come out of the summer with a stronger control of the language you use in any context, but it will particularly help your fiction. Really. (Isn’t THAT a great sentence fragment, used correctly? You need to control even those rogues.)

    After you’ve worked through the patterns in this book, there are two a final challenges.

    • Write at least a 100 word sentence, correctly punctuated.
    • Correctly use a sentence fragment. Really.

    NonFiction BookBlast Sunday, June 26, 2011. 8-10 am. ALA Conference in NOLA.

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    39. Five Things to Make Your First Page Shine!

    The first page is your chance to make a strong impression with your teen reader! Don’t blow it! New York Times bestselling young adult author Rachel Cohn spoke at the 2011 Southern California SCBWI Writer’s Day event, and shared her list of the top five things you need on page one!

    The Five Things To Look For In Your Opening Page:

    1)     Voice

    • This is often said to be indescribable. “I’ll know it when I read it.” Is what we hear over and over.
    • Voice is the way you speak on paper.
    • Write as if you are talking to a friend.
    • Write honestly.
    • Don’t write logically. Follow the emotion.
    • Imagine a teen in your living room and you are telling them your story. How would you tell it to keep them engaged?
    • Read other books! Hear other author’s voices.
    • Some of Cohn’s favorite author voices are: Libba Bray, David Levithan, and Patricia McCormick.

    2)     Tone

    • This is similar to tone of voice.
    • It is not what is being said but how it is being said.
    • This is related to the adjectives you use.

    3)     World

    • You need to show the world your characters find themselves in.
    • This doesn’t have to be epic world building like Lord of the Rings or high fantasy or dystopian.
    • Worlds are smaller. Think about the world created by author Sarah Dessen as an example.
    • Communicate how your world works to your reader.
    • Think about how your mundane and ordinary world can be seen as extraordinary to a teen.
    • Your world needs to feel like paradise before you make it feel like a prison.

    4)     The Plot

    • Outlining is good! It’s really helpful.
    • Plot is what happens in the story and the order in which it happens.

    5)     Conflict

    • What is in your character’s way?
    • What does your character want?
    • Do the situations your character gets into get in the way of what they want?

    Rachel shared the first page of three young adult novels which (in her opinion) contain all five elements – Voice, Tone, World, Plot, and Conflict. Pick up these books at your library and see if you agree!

    Example 1: The Hunger Games by Susan Collins

    • Mention of the Reaping = Tone and Plot
    • Story with the Cat = Illustrates (show not tell) the bleakness of the world.
    • Establishes the protagonist is a hunter who provides for the family and is loyal.
    • The line about love immediately shows tone and conflict.

    Example 2: Bumped by Megan McCafferty

    • We get the voice from the first line.
    • We get the tone from the use of slang and the sense of darkness and mystery. Yet at the same time it’s funny.
    • The prosthetic belly tells us information about the world.
    • Immediate Conflict = She must get pregnant.

    2 Comments on Five Things to Make Your First Page Shine!, last added: 5/26/2011

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    40. Young Adult Novels

    I’ve been working my way through an inspirational YA manuscript for, well, YEARS. I lovingly call it my “learning novel.” Recently I realized that it probably isn't’t a viable YA at all. Not one that today’s sophisticated young adults might be interested in anyway. The protagonist is sixteen years old, but she lives in an era totally foreign to most 21st Century American young adults. Also, her

    3 Comments on Young Adult Novels, last added: 3/8/2011
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    41. Literary Agent Natalie Fischer On Nailing Voice -- And a 1st Chapter Crit

    Natalie Fischer has recently moved from the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency to the Bradford Agency. While she isn't accepting submissions yet, she expects to get rolling soon. In the meantime, we've been lucky to have her answer a few questions on the topic of voice, one of the hardest things for most writers to nail down.  She also has a great blog with more information, and she tweets at @Natalie_Fischer.

    First Chapter Critique Giveaway

    Want to know if your voice is right for your manuscript? For the market? Comment and fill out the form below! To help us celebrate the one year anniversary of this blog, Natalie has generously donated a 1st chapter critique for a random winner. We'll draw the name and post it Saturday.


    Question: How would you describe the difference between voice, style, and language in a manuscript?

    Natalie: Language is diction: the word choices, the literal language of nationality. Style is the form: short, choppy, flowing, poetic, lyrical. Voice is the personality, the person behind the words that makes the reader forget about the author, and dive into a life. It’s what you remember about the characters long after you’ve forgotten their names.

    Question: What mistakes do you see writers make when trying to develop or show a “voice”?

    Natalie: I think the biggest mistake is to try and show voice through style or language. Using heavy slang or methods like “Southern dialogue” are annoying, not effective. Voice is a point of view, a perspective that is unique to only one person. It has emotion, history, a sense of place, and senses. These things are shown in unison with style and language, but not reliant on them to be clear.

    Question: What is it about a voice that makes you sit up and take notice, and what makes you stop reading?

    Natalie: I think what makes me fall in love with a voice is one that I can relate to. What makes me stop reading is one I can’t. Very simple, really, and oh so subjective!

    Question: What kind of voices are being done too often or not well enough?

    Natalie: I think the most common voice is snarky in tone (and my personal favorite), and the hardest voice to do well is middle grade.

    Question: As an agent, what is more important to you: concept, character, action/plot, or voice--and why?

    Natalie: Voice, voice, voice! It’s the hardest to fix. If you have voice down, the rest can be thought up.

    Question: Name three books that you love for their plot.

    Natalie: Am I allowed to use the Harry Potter books – all of them? Is that a cop-out?

    Question: Name three books you love for the memorable characters.

    Natalie: Jane Austen and Charles Dickens were masters of memorable characters. I’d also have to say Ella from ELLA ENCHATED is one of my favorite characters of all time.

    Question: Name three books where the voice blew you away.

    Natalie: I’d rather pick a genre: Romance. Romance novels are ALL about voice; from the first page, first sentence, it hits you with a “bam!”

    To combine these all up, I think Time Traveler’s wife was the ideal blend of plot, character development, and voice; that

    77 Comments on Literary Agent Natalie Fischer On Nailing Voice -- And a 1st Chapter Crit, last added: 3/12/2011
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    42. Writers & Voice: my MiG Writers' blog series

    WritersVoice 003 500w

    I've started a blog series over on the MiG Writers blog about writers and voice, for those interested. Today's post:

    Stephen Pressfield & the Fabrication of Voice

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    43. Finding Your Voice

    Editors and agents are always looking for a unique voice.

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    44. Flicks of Sky

    Flicks of Sky - (c) Faith Pray, 2011

    I don't sail much. Okay, never... unless you count riding the ferries. 

    But living on a peninsula 
    means boats, and boat people.
    Lots of them.
    It almost makes me want to be one. 
    Not a boat. A boat girl.

    4 Comments on Flicks of Sky, last added: 4/11/2011
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    45. Trying someting new: Developing character voice

    Since I started this adventure in writing I learned pretty zippity-quick that in order to make it in this business, you have to have a strong voice. It took a while for me to get a grasp on "what" voice is. It's not the easiest to explain. However, KNOWING what voice is doesn't mean that it comes easy. I've finished my first Novel, UNSEEN, but I tried so hard to make sure all the words were perfect that I think the voice came across unnatural. I still love the story and will most likely go back to it one day and try to fix it. For now, I'm starting a new book. I'm aiming for a natural yet unique voice. So . . . before I begin the book, I've decided to get into my main characters head. I am starting a journal as if my main character were writing it. I'm hoping this will give me a good idea of who my character is, how she thinks, talks and even how the story will unfold. Usually I need an outline to write a book. But with this journal thing . . . I can just let the story take on a life of it's own. I'm hoping this journal will give me the structure for my outline. Who knows. It's worth a shot to try. That's part of the fun of writing . . . right?

    So . . . what do you do to get to know your characters and develop their unique voice? I'd love to hear more ideas!

    14 Comments on Trying someting new: Developing character voice, last added: 4/13/2011
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    46. Writer Wednesday: Capturing that Elusive Voice

    Browsing the new book section of my local library the other day, I spotted a collection of essays and stories featuring writers in my area, the majority of whom had attended the same workshop. Curious about local talent, I checked it out. It was an interesting read, but not because of the quality of the work. None were horrible, just numbingly boring and surprisingly similar given that they were men and women of different ages and experiences.

    I skimmed through the beginning of each one, and when nothing caught my interest, skipped to the next. There were more than a dozen stories in all, and I only read one through to the end. It wasn't perfect by any means. A personal essay relating the author's experiences with cooking to her three marriages, it rambled at times, wasn't structured particularly well, and its point was far from original. So why did I read it through? The writer had a distinct and original voice, one that drew me in and made me want to know more about her. It wasn't a sophisticated voice, but it was authentic. The writer was telling me about her world as she experienced it.

    The other stories, while more polished, were not as compelling. Why not? My guess is that those writers were striving to be literary. Their first concern was to impress their readers, to razzel-dazzle them with fancy words and obscure allusions. The writer of the story I finished wasn't concerned with that. (Interestingly, she was one of the few writers in the collection without a MFA degree.) She just wanted to tell her story, and so she got on with it. She wrote simply, but honestly. When I came to the last page I felt as if I had gotten to know someone new.

    So what is the moral? Is there one? What I learned from reading that collection was to listen to my inner voice and not be so self-conscious about making mistakes. Too often I try to be smart-alecky and a show-off. It's safer than saying what you really feel, especially if your thoughts might not meet with approval. I didn't learn to swim until I was in my twenties, and long after  I was able to paddle my awkward way across the length of the pool, I clung close to the sides. There comes a day, though, when you have to head out of the shallows and into deep waters. Sure, you'll falter, but ultimately, you'll become a much better swimmer. Unless, of course, you drown.

    0 Comments on Writer Wednesday: Capturing that Elusive Voice as of 4/13/2011 4:15:00 PM
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    47. voice

    The way your character tells his story, the kind of language he uses and how he uses it to tell his particular story is one way to think of voice. A lot of editors and agents say that what the very first thing they look for in a manuscript is a strong voice.

    I can see that. I love a strong voice as a reader. I start to believe in the story right away if I’m pulled in by the voice. Voice has to do with diction, of course; it has to do with our choice of words. But the way those words are arranged, the tone that emerges from those constructions, reveals character. I think that’s one of the reasons people react to novels with strong narrative voices. They feel an immediate connection to the character telling the story. They want to hear him say more, tell them more.

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    48. The Voice of Point-of-View

    “I’m looking for great voice!” That’s what every editor and agent in the business keeps saying over and over. Yet, at the same time they have trouble describing voice. “I can’t describe it,” they say. “But, I’ll know it when I read it.”

    But what is it? And how do we writers find our voice?

    This is a complex topic. But I’ve discovered that one great way to discover the power of voice (and what it is for that matter) is to experiment with point-of-view. Choosing a point of view for your story will greatly influence the narrative voice of your novel. It’s a lot more than pronouns. It’s about perspective, and “who” is telling the story. The story of one event will be told differently depending upon the POV. Choosing to tell a story from inside a protagonist’s head (first person) or from an omniscient narrator is going to create vastly different voices.

    Don’t believe me? Try the following exercise and see what happens.

    Point of View Exercise:

    Step One: Find two paragraphs of your present work-in-progress that includes an event with multiple characters and no dialog. (Or write two new paragraphs).

    Step Two: Identify the POV you wrote those paragraphs in (i.e. first person, third person limited, omniscient etc.) and skip the step below that is the POV you originally used.

    Step Three: Rewrite your paragraphs from the POV of your protagonist using first person.

    Step Four: Rewrite your paragraphs from the POV of another character interacting in the scene using third person limited.

    Step Five: Rewrite your paragraphs using dramatic POV.

    Step Six: Rewrite your paragraphs using omniscient POV.

    Step Seven: Rewrite your paragraphs from the POV of a character outside the action, who watches but doesn’t interact. Use the third person limited.

    Step Eight: Now compare your paragraphs. What changed in each POV? How did the voice change? How did the diction and word choices change? How did the distance from the scene change? How does the narrator or character’s attitude change the voice?

    Now tell us how it went!!!

    Also, check out these other great links on voice and point of view:

    49. Finding Voice

    art by Julia Denos
    Deliciously spoiled by a conference weekend studded with children's book stars,

    I give you my gleanings on
    Finding Your Voice. 

    Tips for Artists and Writers from Candlewick Press' 
    Art Resource Coordinator Anne Moore: 
    from Grandma's Gloves, ill. Julia Denos
    Finding your voice 
    starts with questions.

    • What do you love? 
    • What moves you?
    • What captures your imagination?
    • What do you have to offer?

    from Grandma's Gloves, ill. Julia Denos

    • Use your passions as your springboard.

      1 Comments on Finding Voice, last added: 4/27/2011
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    50. Author Janet Gurtler on VOICE + GIVEAWAY

    I'm thrilled to have good friend and YA Author Janet Gurtler here today. Janet's newest book, I'M NOT HER is a compelling story of sisters. A terrible cancer diagnosis forces Tess to reevaluate her complex feelings for her perfect sister as she's pushed into Kristina's popularity spotlight both at school and at home. Forced to carry an unfair burden of responsibility as her family's strength crumbles, Tess must fight to remain herself and let her own light shine.

    Voice is a huge component of I'M NOT HER, allowing Tess to stand out amid such devastating circumstances, and so Janet is here to share thoughts on this critical, yet complex, element of fiction.

    JANET: One thing I heard a lot in the beginning phases of my writing journey (and still hear now) was how important voice was to selling a novel. How imperative nailing voice is to writing a good story. Editors and agents often speak about how they’re looking for a strong voice. Well, I thought back then, I can easily do that. Right?

    Of course, first I needed to figure out exactly what this elusive voice thing was. And soon I discovered nailing voice often requires extensive research and always requires careful thought about who your characters are. And how you write best.


    It’s the way a story is told, a distinct style of writing. Maybe you use short choppy sentences and lots of sentence fragments (Hello, Me!) or perhaps your voice sings with long lush prose. The voice creates a tone and the author conveys their own voice in the manner they write in. Clear as my son’s fishbowl that he hasn’t changed the water in for three weeks?

    Voice also helps elicit emotion from the reader and sets the mood. It’s not so much what you say, but HOW you say it. There are intelligent humorous voices in Young Adult fiction, like John Green. There are lush literary voices like Malinda Lo. Discovering who you are as a writer and being true to that is part of finding your own voice.

    Voice pulls readers into a story by making a story real, no matter what the story is about. Real applies to paranormal and dystopian fiction as well as contemporary. Voice makes characters leap off pages and come alive in a reader’s mind. Voice conjures up vivid, visual settings and invites readers along for the ride. How do you show that to your reader?

    Take a moment to listen to the voice in the opening of Libba Bray’s book, GOING BOVINE:

    “The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World. I’m sixteen now, so you can imagine that’s left me with quite a few days of major suckage. Like Career Day? Really? Do we need to devote an entire six hours out of the high school year to having “life  counselors” tell you all the jobs you could potentially blow at?”

    That small passage is ripe with voice, both Libba’s voice and the voice of her narrator, a sixteen year old boy named Cameron. Right away we kind of get a sense of who Cameron is because of what he tells us and the way he tells us.

    Voice embodies the way a character speaks. What they say as well as how they say it. So voice is partly how a character sees his world. A fifteen year old boy does not have the same reacti

    20 Comments on Author Janet Gurtler on VOICE + GIVEAWAY, last added: 5/15/2011
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