Today I’m pleased to once again welcome author Tia Bach. We both participated in the Blogathon in May and she guested here then. You might also recognize her from the comments to many of my posts (for which I can’t thank her enough).
Both of us have written about voice: Tia from a novelist’s perspective and me from a translator’s. I do hope you’ll read both posts (mine is over at her site, Depression Cookies) and share your thoughts with us in a comment.
Listening to the Voices in My Head
I have too many voices inside my head, and sometimes they are all struggling to break free. I’m not ready for drugs or a padded cell, the condition I have is a blessing. I’m a writer.
When Lisa mentioned exchanging guest posts about voice, I was excited. Then I sat and looked at a blank screen and started flipping out. How was I going to write about voice and how to achieve it when I often struggle with it?
To spark some thoughtful exploration on the subject, I decided to look up the definition of voice. Voice has two meanings as it concerns creative writers, according to About.com:
* Voice is the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character; or
* Voice is the characteristic speech and thought patterns of a first-person narrator; a persona.
No wonder I was confused. I blurred the two in my first novel. In Depression Cookies, I wrote the teenage protagonist’s story in first-person. It’s delicately intertwined with her mother’s story, as written by my own mother. It was hard not to blur the voices of author and character in this situation. For the character to work, I needed intimacy. I wanted to know her inside and out before I threw her into the story’s family drama. She needed to be a character the reader was rooting for even during times of discovery and questioning. I also wanted her to have flaws, lots of them; lessons waiting to be learned. My teenage voice was the foundation, but the story helped craft the character further.
Memorable characters are one of the most important elements of a great read; they need to be vulnerable, believable and engaging. Readers want to see flaws and strength. Even an action-based plot full of explosions and high energy needs a character readers can sink their teeth into. Batman’s world is as much about the dark Gotham City and crime as it is about a man who saw his parents die in front of him.
How to achieve an engaging and memorable voice? I’m sure every author has their own method. For me, a big part is being an avid reader. I have so many memorable characters in my head, and I evaluate why I connected to them. I then apply some of those qualities to my own characters. I am most endeared to a flawed female character who is strong but must overcome an often overriding weakness. I also like a delicate balance of heartbreak and humor, and above all hope. But that’s me, and that’s where my author voice comes into play. It’s hard to completely separate the two.
My nomadic lifestyle (I have moved on average every three years my whole life) is a huge benefit. I’ve known a lot of people from all walks of life. I’m an observer. My characters spring from these real people, because in the end I want my character to be relatable. I want to understand her heart, mind and soul.
Finding your voice is like finding yourself. We all take different paths. The more you give in to wonder and exploration, the closer you will be. Consider who you are and who you want to be. There’s gold in that mine, precious but hiding.
Do you struggle with voice? What methods do you use to hone your voice or your characters’?
Tia Bach is one half of a mother-daughter writing team along with her mother, Angela Silverthorne. Depression Cookies is their debut novel. You can access Tia on Twitter @Tia_Bach_Author and follow both authors on their blog and the Web at www.depressioncookies.com.