Voice Me

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Someone recently had a post up about the importance of author voice. The thrust of the post (from what I remember—I’m typing this on my netbook while commuting to work via subway) was how certain authors could make a tired trope fun and interesting.

Agreed. But I’m going to segue a bit. Author voice can impact on a much more basic level. Recently, I read a couple of ebooks by an author whose 'voice' was very appealing. I loved the characters and set-up and I quickly read each book back to back. I’m even toying with the idea of reading the next book, if there is one because the first two were so much fun to read.

But over on Fictionwise I rated them both just 'okay', and the only reason I didn’t give them the lowest grade of 'poor' was because of the author’s voice.

The stories were shallow; with no depth in characterization, plotting, motivation setting. They were more along the lines of a couple of sequential scenes strung together, than an actual story. Even a short one. Imo, they should have been free on the author’s site, or the editor should never have bought the story without more extensive fleshing out.

The majority of the action (confrontation with bad guys) happened off stage and there was so little teeth to flimsy conflict between the main protags there might as well have been none. Furthermore, the excerpts provided for both book (both of them the beginning of a love scene) gave the false impression that the books were far more carnal than they really were. There was only one love scene near the end of each the book and they were relatively tame despite what the teaser excerpt implied. So false advertising there. (A whole 'nother post, this).

See, how I went ranted on and on there? So how could I think of buying and reading the next book? Author voice. As shallow as the main characters are I really liked them individually and their interactions with each other. The pace was quick and I had a smile on my face the entire time.

On the flipside, (and this is going to be weird) but sometimes it’s not the author’s work per se, that doesn’t work, but that their voice doesn’t jive with my expectations.

Fer ‘sample. .. awhile ago there was book I was anxiously anticipating. I’d read the story blurb and a pretty generous excerpt. Both were dark and edgy bordering on horror. So I was expecting a more somber atmospheric opening to the book. Instead I got the sassy heroine cracking wise and wise assing, left, right and center. Threw me right out of the book. The humor was too soon, too fast, too much. I’ve never finished that book. Oddly enough, I did pick up a book later in the series which I enjoyed, and in which the heroine made several cameo appearances. Cracking the wise. Again, she set my teeth on edge. So maybe this was more a case of hating *that* character's voice, than expectation dissonance.

There’s also been books that I wanted to read by authors I admired but their prose left me stone-cold like my name was Austin, even as ‘intellectually’ I recognized and appreciated their wordsmithing.

Stupid story, great voice= love it, want more.
Potentially good story, author voice doesn’t not match expectations= Non-starter
Amazing word craft, author voice doesn’t hit right note = meh.

Go figure.

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vanessa jaye said...

I have not guilt leaving an 'okay' rating on those books over on Fictionwise (for all the reasons I listed.) If I were voting on enjoyment alone, the rating would be higher, but no way could I have rated the book with a clear conscience any higher.

Having said that, never fear you authors out there nashing your teeth and thinking what a jerk I am; there were plenty of 'excellent' and 'good' votes on Fictionwise, plus several glowing reviews posted on the author site.

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