Saturday, November 15, 2014

Giving it Voice

Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany
With #NaNoWriMo in full swing, I’ve seen more than a few questions pop up in the social buzz about #VOICE. For example, a post yesterday questioned writing multiple characters. It had everyone talking.

The smartest answer?

Make it sound real.

This reminds me of ​Tatiana Maslany's incredible delivery of - what is it now, twelve -  cloned versions of herself? The writers give each character a different personality, back-story and voice, and Tatiana delivers in a way that feels authentic. Not forced.

And those accents!

Editor Ariel Hahn says voice is the absence of artifice. It’s what comes out when you have just yourself. She says not to worry though; it will develop on its own if you keep writing!

China Mieville
China Mieville puts it like this: Every book I write, the first thing I have to do is get into the voice, and the voice varies from book to book - that's part of what's interesting to me . . . Of course, who you're writing for is part of the decision about the voice of the book . . . but the person you're writing for is (sorry to repeat what is a cliche, but it's true) yourself - though yourself at different times and in different moods. So when I wrote Railsea, I was very much wanting to write a story for myself at a certain age. I tried to inhabit the voice that would excite and win over and appeal to and interest that me, rather than thinking "now to write to appeal to children". I wouldn't know how - but I do know how to tell younger-me a story he would like, I think and hope.

It takes self-reflection for a writer to pull this off. Les Edgerton suggests that the best way to find your voice is to write autobiographically. "Writers will never find a powerful, evocative voice until they learn to be bone-deep honest with themselves, open and vulnerable”.

As the saying goes, if you’re a writer, who needs therapy?

Here are examples of voice in two different projects I’m currently working on:

Black Tuesday (w/t) - NY, 1926 Paranormal Romance

The secretaries were like birds on a hot wire, all a chatty flap. Hammond’s door was open, the man shouting on the phone.
    “What happened?” Charlotte asked the receptionist.
    “He was actually here!”
    “Who?” Charlotte knew perfectly well who. It was all she could do to keep from running after him.
    “Leon Marcottie!” the office girls said in unison.
    “Him?” Charlotte managed to shrug one shoulder. “I hear he’s a real cake eater . . .”

The Blood in the Beginning (w/t) - 2020, LA Urban Fantasy

The detective and I went way back, not in a cozy, family friendship way, hell no. He’d set me straight when I went a little wayward.
    Okay. A lot wayward . . .
    Rourke kept me out of juvie, for the most part, and though there’d been no luck finding decent foster care, he started me in the LA-MMA junior circuit, and that saved my life.
    “You want to fight, you might as well learn how not to get killed.”    
    When I showed up for my first class, he was leading it. Yeah, we went way back.

VOICE is like a fingerprint - if you listen closely, you’ll find the writer’s unique signature. Do you have a favorite voice in film, TV or novels? I’d love to hear more! Comments welcome. :)

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out more about Kim at or on the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter. She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month. Her latest release is"Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.


Helen Lowe said...

I agree that "will develop on its own if you keep writing!" I also agree about the need to get "into" or inside the voice, and that one needs to be "bone-deep honest."

I am not so sure about writing autobiographically, except as a starting point. I think if one stays in that space as a writer, it can become limiting. (Imho.)

And I enjoyed your snippets. :)

Kim Falconer said...

Thanks Helen!

I remember a writer saying once, "all fiction is autobiographical . . . " :)

But, you're right, staying in any one space, or perspective, can become limiting. At the least, it will 'show' in things like predictability, or narrowness.

Thanks for commenting. Glad you like the snippets!

Alina P said...

This sounds fascinating! I can usually recognize the voice of an author, but I could never explain how I did it or why I think it's that specific writer :)

Love the snippets!

Q: Do you participate in #NaNo?

Kim Falconer said...

Hi Alina, Thanks for your comments.

I think it is difficult to explain why we recognize the voice of a particular author, but there it is, subtle but certain.

I do #NaNo most years, no matter what I'm working on. The energy of writing alongside so many others is powerful!

Do you #NaNo too?