Saturday, January 31, 2009

Voice and style

Voice and style, a fictional author’s tools, making the character appear real and as realistic as possible, even down to the minor characters in your novel.

I’ve been musing over voice and skill level, a question posed in a discussion on Brandilyn Collins blog Forensics and Faith: Novel Openings

Naturally, my first instinct is to open my mouth and type the first dumb thing that comes to mind, which I did, and I call this brain fart idius (if there is such a word and which I have found no spelling for) you know, it’s those senior moments you have when you are well over the half century mark, and learning a new skill, those collective dumb moments you hope to get away with when you post unthought out thoughts. Getting beyond this, I’m one of those individuals who likes to think long and hard about topics that are posed for discussion, by the time I have digested everything and ready to respond the topics have usually advanced on to other subjects. So, I’ve created my own blog to post what I’ve digested and think relevant in hopes that it offers some weight to the subject.

Voice, looking at from the aspiring writer’s point of view, it is the author’s style in which we begin to tell the story. Now when we look at style, it is the specific way an author uses language to characterize through tone, narrative, and description the beginning of the story.

Style is defined as: The manner of expression of a particular writer, produced by choice of words, grammatical structures, use of literary devices, and all the possible parts of language use. Some general styles might include scientific, ornate, plain, emotive. Most writers have their own particular styles.

Now that style seems to be defined to some extent and we look at skill level, a subject near and dear to me, as I learn the creative process in hopes to improve my level of writing. We do improve our skill level by writing.

Like any good wanna-be, I went to my library of How To’s on the subject of creative writing, for I have multitudes on the subject, and believe one can never have enough books, especially on this topic. Voice and Style by Johnny Payne was the first book I picked up, and the first chapter deals with Habits of Speech. Word choice, comes hand in hand with the author’s individual style. Light bulbs of clarity flashed through my brain sparking a fire that blazes, and can’t seem to be put out, until I share with you his teachings.

Habits of Speech as Johnny Payne says is a distinctive way of talking, not to be confused with dialect. Dialect is a person’s overall style of talking. Habits of speech are certain phrases that give even a minor character presence in the story. Creating an intense impression of a character that can be observed in a few lines of dialogue and a few details of description, defined by the habit of speech. Johnny Payne goes on to explain there is a difference been clichéd language and language that is simply vernacular or familiar. It’s weaving those familiar phrases into a style of speech.

As idle as my brain seems to have been this book has been sitting on the shelf for sometime. The first paragraph adds the flavor to what I have been searching for, adding depth to the character’s I have been creating. It is the nuance of enlightenment.

Okay, now we have our writer’s voice and style down pat, we understand that we come to this through word choice, description, tone, and sentence structure. And we don’t have to settle just for that natural voice, we can be creative and create multiple voices. The more we write the more voices we develop.

Where can we learn different Habits of Speech? By watching people, and listening to how they speak, how they turn a phrase, their mannerisms. Finally, by reading other writers, and observing their method, and style.

Happy Writing!

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