POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE
By Nandy Ekle
Voice. How do you have a voice in writing? Voice is an author’s uniqueness. This has to do with word choice and the direction you take your story. I might write with a very formal voice and my characters are very prim and proper, but you might write using more casual words and ideas and your characters more like every day people walking around at the mall.
Style is the way you tell your story. This can include punctuation, or the lack of it; where and why a writer breaks for a paragraph; or the length of chapters.
It’s no secret that I read a lot of Stephen King books/stories. I can read one page of a story and pretty much tell you if it’s something he wrote or not, even if it’s something of his I’ve never seen or heard about before. And that’s because of his voice and style. However, there are a few of his stories that have surprised me, and in a good way. In fact, one of the reasons I love certain King books over some of the others is because the voice and style is so different.
The Shining. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but I will continue saying it until I can’t say it anymore. This book is incredible because of the style (among a million other reasons). As a student of writing rules, I can point out where each rule has been broken. But each rule is broken for specific reasons, and it was absolutely done in absolutely the right place at absolutely the right time. There are places in that book where reading the words and the placement or absence of punctuation actually made me feel like I was caught in a whirlpool going down a drain. Amazing illusion!
The Eyes of the Dragon. The first time I read this book I had never heard of it. “Hhhmmm,” I said as I took it off the library shelf. At the time I was feasting on the fantasy genre, and that’s where this book fits. I was wonderfully surprised because Mr. King uses a much different voice for this story. He actually sounds a little like J. R. R. Tolkien in The Hobbit. I definitely suggest this book for anyone who wants to study voice and style.
Dolores Claiborne. Not so much a shift in voice form Mr. King, but a substantial shift in style. He wrote this story in the voice of a woman, and as a woman myself, I will tell you he did an amazing job of it. But as far as not sounding like Stephen King, well, he does. You see, Dolores is a woman who has a rough and hard demeanor. That’s actually what the story is about. Survival. The thing that makes the style so different is he did not break into chapters. The whole story is told in one long narrative. And, again, that was the right thing to do. There are times when stopping to change chapters is more distracting than anything else. The result is this book is a very fast read, in spite of the thickness of the book.
Okay. Now it’s our turn. A couple of exercises here. First, try to write part of your current work in progress in the voice of your favorite author, and the style they use the most. This will teach you to think like they do, which can be very helpful. Next, take a piece of your current WIP and use an opposite voice and completely different style. This will help you decide if you actually have the right thing in the right place at the right time.
Now, show off a little bit and post your experiment in the comments below.
Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.