The vehicle of voice

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I mentioned below that I wanted to write about voice. It's been on my mind lately for a couple of reasons. One, because of my need/want to be more prudent with my book buying. There were things I could do to nip the habit of excess. Obvious things like spending less time in the bookstore and use the library more often. Less obvious things like, if I had the first 3 books in the series but hadn't read any of them yet, did it really make sense to buy the newest release? My interest in series has been known to peter out mid-way. Nothing to do with the quality of writing, I'm just a bit fickle that way. Same goes for TV shows. One season I'll have to catch every single episode, the next season? meh.

Another way I realized I could minimize 'mistakes' is to really assess the author's voice. Not the skill or talent in writing, but the voice. There's been so many times I've bought a book that was well written, and promised, in its back blurb, a unique premise and characters. Then I'd start reading and barely make it through the first chapter. Then I found I'd barely make it through the first 3 pages. Not because the book was so gadawful, or boring, but because I'd realize I was skating the surface. I hadn't been drawn in. I was an observer and not a participant. There were other things I could be doing. Things that crowded my mind and vied for attention.

Voice is what makes me a participant.

For those of you who write, you can understand this sensation as being akin to reading with your writer's hat on. You can admire the craftsmanship or you can mentally be editing every other sentence, but you are not a participant in that story. You're never fully drawn in. You have no emotional stake in the outcome. No purient interest. No intrigue.

Voice is the hook that binds you. It makes the observations mute, like passing scenery caught in your periphery vision. They (your observations on skill, etc) might add, or distract, from the trip, but your true and whole attention is glued on the road of plot and character. And voice is the vehicle.
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Milady Insanity said...

Wonderful post, Vanessa!

I do the same nowadays, though I could apply the voice rule a bit more stringently.

Amie Stuart said...


One thing I've noticed (and I left a comment a couple weeks ago at Mary's blog about this) is that if I can't see the story for the words I'm gone. And nine times out of ten when this happens it's a totally Meh book.

This is where I forget what I was going to say....... =(

Jordan Summers said...

I agree. Voice can raise or kill a story quicker than anything. I am once again going to go through my bookshelves to thin the herd.

Jaye said...

Thank you, Milady. The flip side of the 'voice' thing, is being caught up in it, then 200 pages later..... you wonder where's the story. lol. *sigh*. I'd much rather that, then not even having my interest captured in the first chapter, or 'forcing' myself to read just a little bit more until it is.

Jaye said...

Amie, good point. I love voice, but if I feel like I'm wading through the prose (and my brain feel like its throbbing after a couple of paragraphs) that book is a no go. Fortunately, those ones are pretty easy to spot. And usually, they're printed in teeny-tiny font with narrow margin, lol, which is another deal killer.

Jaye said...

Jordan, I doubt the year will end before I go through my shelves again. They say the first cut is the deepest, but sometimes it's not deep enough. *gg*

raine said...

Great post, Jaye.

Spot on.
And yes--I can read a whole novel of great voice, even if it has very little plot. When I get to the end, I will have enjoyed the journey so much I won't mind at all.

But vice-versa won't work. A lot of twists and turns with no personal involvement just won't do it for me, I'm afraid.

Jaye said...

Raine: exactly.

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