This isn’t the first time I’ve written about our senses and our voice, but this has a slightly different approach than I’ve used before. Over the years of preparing to speak I’ve written a new approach with each appearance. I ran across this one and though it had some good hints in it that I haven’t used here before.
We have six senses. They are seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling and — no, not seeing dead people — emotions. You shouldn’t write scenes without some or all of those. They must match the mood or tone you are trying to convey. A cloudy rainy day for a funeral, a bright sunny day for the fair, or switch them to alter the tone; the smell of flowers for happiness or a wilted rose in a vase for sadness, the smell of dank mold for terror or fright. Pretty simple, but it gets more complicated than that, right down to the proper verb or noun that conveys the mood. Think of the difference in the blast of a supersonic jet and the purr of a kitten. Or the cool touch of a snakeskin or downy warmth of a child’s cheek. Or the character who lurches as opposed to strides across the room or hunches as opposed to leans against a tree. All these and the way they affect you go to voice.
[See how many action verbs you can create for the usual walk, look, sit, stand, etc.]
You are who you are because of the lullabies your mother sang, the stories your father told, the most precious love of your grandmother. All these attribute to a voice unique to yourself, but you may have to dig it from your very being.
It is more than the voice of an individual character in your book, but is the sum total of how you present your story. Tell someone a story and listen or tape record what you say and how you say it. That is your true voice, not what you put down on paper when you begin to write and follow all the rules you’ve learned so painstakingly.
Too many of us try to write oh so properly that the voice is lost. All the characters and the narration are made up of these proper words put together so carefully that they are boring. Good writing should read like a song that flows with its own rhythm, circles back upon itself conveying messages that surprise and awe. That is voice. Think of the difference between an opera singer and a country and western, or between Chopin and R & B. Again, voices.
Rip out your soul, make yourself bleed, write down things you’ve always been afraid to say and say them as only you can. All these things are buried deep within you and they need to come out. When they do you will have the voice you have searched for.
[Think of picturesque nouns for words such as building, house, tree, pasture, mountain, church, etc.]
Study other books for voice alone. Check several books by the same author and you will find an underlying voice no matter who or what they are writing about. My voice is the same in non-fiction as it is in fiction, as it should be. My favorite author is James Lee Burke, a man whose voice is of a quality to be worshiped. I’m awed by his ability to set the tone, a sense of place, his characters and his story, all with a gathering of words.
Only writers can hear voices and wander into a fantasy world without being locked up so turn loose and let it fly and don’t stop till you’ve gotten it right.

About veldabrotherton

For thirty years I've been a writer. Publication of my work began in 1994 . I'm pleased to have recently settled with Oghma Creative Media as my publisher. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. I recently signed a contract to write westerns again, and what fun it's been working on the first one. If I weren't writing my life wouldn't be so exciting.
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  1. Thanks! Very nicely put.

  2. irishoma says:

    Thanks for the good info, Velda. I like James Lee Burke, too.Donna Volkenannt

  3. Marsha R says:

    I've been reading Jennifer Lauck's books who writes memoir in the voice of herself as a little girl. Her descriptions of herself and those she encounters are very detailed. She learned under Tom Spanbauer in Portland, Oregon.

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