Friday, April 11, 2008

Hearing Your Own Voice

As writers, we’re told that our voices make us unique. They may be strong, or subtle. Bold, or understated. But somewhere in there is buried what we’re all about. I’ve never been particularly good at hearing my own. Voice is such a part of us, it’s like trying to hear your own accent when you’ve lived in one region all your life.

But lately, I’ve been working with my new critique partner. She’s got a great voice. Her writing sparkles with energy, and whatever she’s writing, I get a sense of her personality in her words, even though we haven’t known each other that long yet.

So I looked back at my own work, trying to hear my own voice. I do things like this when I’m feeling any kind of pressure with my writing (currently, to complete Broken Pentacle, the sequel to Nature’s Pentacle). I go off on interesting tangents, procrastinating under the pretenses of better understanding my own writing process.

What I decided as I read back through my work in progress is that, for me, voice is tied directly to how I experience the world around me. I’m one of those people who’s constantly aware of air movement, shadows, bird calls, and other earthy details, like what the soil smells like after a spring rain.

I guess it’s a pagan thing, that constant connection to the world around me. But what I’d never noticed before was how much it comes out in my voice when I write. It’s there in the words I choose. The details I describe. The structure of my sentences.

And really, it made for a delightful bit of procrastination. So, what about you? If you write, what would you say characterizes your voice? Sets it apart from others? And as readers, can you think of any authors with a voice you love? What makes them one of your favorites?


Donna Marie Rogers said...

Hi Heather! Great blog! What I think shows in my voice is characterization. I'm a reality TV junkie because I love watching people interact with each other. So I try to get that kind of personal and emotional detail into my writing.

For instance, my short erotic romance, BRANDED, seems to be a favorite among those who've read my stories, and it's my fave, too, because Lily & Troy's story, although short, is emotional. It's also the one that's received the best reviews (for the most part *g*).

Below is an excerpt from There's Only Been You, which I hope to have a release date for soon. Father & son are about to meet for the first time:

Sara was in the kitchen when she heard a truck pull up in front of the house. She ran into the living room and peeked out the window. Mike. She ran back into the kitchen and checked on the meatloaves. The cheese hadn't melted yet so she'd give them a few more minutes. She glanced at the table. Perfect.

"Ethan, are you ready? He's here!" she called out. When she didn't get a reply, she hustled down the hall to his bedroom and rapped on the door. "Ethan?"

"Come in," she heard him mumble.

Sara opened the door and saw him sitting on his bed with a Power Ranger action-figure clutched in his fist. He looked scared to death and Sara's heart gave a little lurch. She sat down beside him on the bed. "You have the same look on your face as when you're going to the dentist." He had on a brand-new pair of jeans and his favorite Spiderman T-shirt.

"I was just thinking," he said.

Sara waited for him to elaborate, but he didn't. He's so much like Garrett. "About...?"

He turned his head and gazed up at her. "What if my dad don't like me?"

"Oh, sweetheart!" She put her arms around him and gave him a reassuring squeeze. "Your daddy is going to think you're the best thing since chocolate chip cookies, I promise."

"But his dad didn't like him."

Sara frowned. "Where did you hear such a thing?"

He shrugged one shoulder. "I heard Uncle Garrett and Uncle Nicky talking about it."

"You were eavesdropping? What did I tell you about that?" she gently chided him.

"Sorry. It's just that I wanted to know more about my dad, and I accidentally heard 'em talking. Then on purpose, I stayed and listened."

"Ethan, when you're older I'm sure your father will tell you about his own father. But in the meantime, I promise, your daddy already loves you and can't wait to meet you."

"Really?" He looked so hopeful Sara felt her heart swell with love for this incredible little person that was her son.

"Really and truly, honest to God. Now," she rose to her feet and motioned toward the door, "ready to go meet your father?"

Ethan slid off the bed and eyed the Power Ranger figure clutched in his hand as if trying to come to a decision. Finally, he set it down on the bed and said, "Okay, I'm ready."

Donna Marie Rogers said...

Meant to tell you, love the bleeding hearts! I have them, too, although mine haven't come up yet. *g*

Eden Rivers said...

Hey Donna *waving*

I LOVED Branded! And thanks so much for sharing a sneak peak of There's Only Been You. I got a giant lump in my throat reading the excerpt. I'd say you hit the nail on the head with your assessment that emotional detail is central to your voice. The detail about clutching the Power Ranger action figure conveys a world of emotion.


Eden Rivers said...

Okay, I'll jump in and share a (fresh off the keyboard and unedited) sneak peak of my own Broken Pentacle here, as Sky and Alec steal a moment together in the woods of Northern Minnesota at sunrise:

“Alec?” Sky reached up to touch his cheek, but when he met her gaze, her light blue eyes darted away.
He wondered if she’d been entertaining her own plans, as well. They’d built a fragile trust, but each knew the other held opposing tactics in mind, when it came to dealing with Jaimis and his followers. Had his introspection alerted her to the fact that he’d pulled away, hiding his thoughts from her?
Too quiet to talk. Don’t want to ruin things. Her mind touched his like a kiss.
And wasn’t that the blessed truth? One morning. One more stolen moment of peace. He needed that to stay strong. When he claimed the soap and tossed it onto the shore, then pulled her close in the waist deep water, she hummed a sigh of approval. Lifting her into his arms, he helped her twine her legs around his hips, lifted her to align their bodies, and then buried his aching cock deep inside the warm depths of her body.
Her hair whipped around as she threw her head back, her face set in a mask of pure bliss. Bending his knees, he brought their joined bodies deeper into the cool pond water, feeling weightless and free as he made love to her. The pond turned crimson as spears of sunlight broke through the trees, and their soft moans mingled with birdsong and whispering leaves.
Rocking together, they clung like longtime lovers -- like friends who’d shared a lifetime of sacred moments like this. Not for the first time, he wondered how a such a strong bond could follow from all the hell they’d shared. Gods, he wished things could be different, without so many loose ends threatening to strangle them.
“Stop thinking,” Sky bucked against him and her fingernails pricked ever so lightly against his shoulders, “and love me.”
No doubt she’d meant to say “make love to me,” but he reveled in the slip. They swayed together like pond weeds in the current, his feet planted firmly on the sandy bottom as he supported her in the chilly water.

Happy Reading!


Kris said...

After reading Nature's Pentacle, which is everything the review's claim and more, I completely agree with your voice. Every scene was crafted in a way that I could experience both the location and the characters emotions thoroughly. Your writing is a real treat! And I can't wait for the sequel.

Seriously, I've never thought much of my voice but am thrilled you have! :) The furthest I've classified my writing is that at the core to most my work is the need for my characters to find redemption/forgiveness. Suppose that speaks a little to my voice.


Eden Rivers said...

Hey, Kris. I think it's pretty common for authors not to hear their own voice--I really only noticed mine after I'd been reading a lot of your fiction, and noticed how much I liked yours. You also gave me a great idea for another blog--recurring themes. You work with redemption/forgiveness, and I tend to have healing, family issues, friendship issues, trust, and a few others show up in my fiction on a regular basis. Hmm, overdue to blog again, so maybe it's time to tackle that "theme" topic :-) And thanks for the compliments on Nature's Pentacle! I can't wait to see your Fatal Attraction come out in print so I can tell everyone I know to read it!