Reflections on the Voice Workshop at Brenda's Place.
Hey, sweet readers!
Last week, I was super honored to be asked to participate as a critiquer for the entries in That Doggone Voice Workshop over at author and contest-thrower extraordinaire Brenda Drake's blog.
She asked me to write up some reflections on my experience, and I thought I'd post them on my blog so that anyone else who was interested might like to read. (You can read my fellow critiquer Becca's reflections here.)
Brenda ran this workshop because Voice is just SO difficult to grab a hold of and wrestle into a book. And as hard as it is, it's that much more difficult in just the first 250 words of a novel. Writers have to ground the reader in the story's world, tell us something about the main character, give us a story hook, entice us to turn the page, AND establish voice.
We seriously lucked out with the entries in this contest. They were all great! From a random entry picker, it's like a miracle that every single writer was so talented. Wow.
So, well done, all of you.
Confession time: I realized while I was writing this recap that I actually have no solid advice on a surefire way to establish voice in your writing, because all I've ever done is listen to my characters and write down what they said. But then I realized that that's really not such bad advice. Look, you've done the hard work of dreaming up this story and characters to go with it. Trust those characters that they know how to tell their own story.
A lot of the snags I hit when reading the entries had to do with the writer of the story jumping in and cutting off the Main Character.
"Wait,"the writer seemed to be saying, "I don't think you know what you're doing here, Main Character. Shut up for a second and let me step in and explain to the reader the precise pink tone of that Heffalump's fur, or the exact tang of the fancy vodka you're drinking. Or even what you really meant to say when you said that one thing."
Well, here's the thing, writers - With all due respect, no reader picks up a book to hear us tell our characters' stories for them. Readers crack those pages open to step into our characters' minds for a moment. So, forget about YOUR voice and let us hear THEIR voices.
Of course, during revisions we've got to comb back through and make sure our characters don't switch favorite slang words midway through the manuscript, or use words from an SAT prep course when they're a normal twelve-year old. But for most voicey stuff, my advice is simple - sit back, close your eyes, and imagine what your character would see, feel, and think. Then write that down. Again - You've done the hard work in dreaming her up - now let her do a little work for you.
Thanks again for letting me play! I had so much fun reading, and am seriously impressed by everyone's hard work!