Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On POV and Voice

Voice is one of those frustrating parts of writing that you either have, or have yet to develop. There is no magic formula to finding your voice. You just have to write, and write, and write, until your voice transforms into something that is yours.

What is voice? Well, it is not only what you say, but also how you say it. Voice is your word order. It is your punctuation. Your paragraphing. It is what determines how the reader "hears" your words in their head.

When I was a teenager, I wrote mostly high fantasy. (I didn't finish said high fantasy novels, but that's a different story.) These grand adventure stories where all told from the third person point of view and often contained several view point characters. (Third person POV uses the pronouns 'He/She/It', for those readers who might be unfamiliar.) During my many years of crafting these tales, I never truly developed my voice. Oh, I'm sure I started, and every writing has 'voice' of some sort--it just isn't always pleasant to read.

In my early twenties, I switched from high fantasy to urban fantasy, and consequently from 3rd person to 1st with only one view point character. (1st person uses the pronoun 'I'.) This is when my voice started to emerge, and since then, my voice has become, well, what it is today. The way I write (hopefully) compliments what I write about, and fits with my characters and genre.

That leads me to today's issue. I am currently taking a one week break from the first draft of HB2 to work on a short story. This short is high fantasy--likely the only high fantasy I've written in the last five years--and while I am absolutely loving the story, I've been slightly worried that my voice isn't working for the story. I stepped back today and really looked at the words I had on the page, contemplating the idea that I perhaps couldn't write in the sub-genre anymore. Then I realized I was writing in first person (probably because I almost always write in first.) I switched to third, and while the voice in the story is still undeniably mine, it works better for the story. It is such a small change, but a change that makes me reexamine how I say things. It works. Reinvigorated, I hope to finish the story tonight, and if everything goes as planned, to have it shined up by the end of the week and ready to be sent out.

Have you ever written a story (or chapter/character/ect) and realized something was in discord with the work and your voice? What did you do?

Have you ever switched between first and third person POV just to see how it would change the writing? If you did, what did you discover?

Happy hump day everyone!


Darlene C. Goodman said...

I've written in both first and third person (with a horrible attempt at second that will never see the light of day). I enjoy both.

My first completed novel (completed thanks to NaNoWriMo) was written in alternating first person. I switched back and forth between the two characters at each chapter break. The problem I had was that one first person voice was stronger and more fun to write than the other. I discovered the strong voice cropping up in her sister's head all the time. If I ever revise that novel, I will either stay the whole time in the stronger first person, or alternate between first and a close third if I need to keep the sister's POV.

purpleprose 78 said...

I have written (short) stories in first person and I really enjoyed it. I don't think I could sustain it for a whole novel because I can't tell the whole story from one POV. Instead, I write a very close third. I'm the smell-o-vision camera sitting on my character's shoulder with a microphone imbedded in her brain so that I can hear what she/he is thinking and feeling. In doing that, I discover each character's unique voice.

For example, Seth phrases his thoughts and notices different things than Mackenzie. His experiences are different than hers so he makes different analogies. Sometimes it is easier to find one character's voice in the novel than it is to find another's. Sigh....I may blog on voice in third person someday because I have a lot to say on the subject.