Monday, October 11, 2010

Room With A View

I just spent the last few days in one of the most beautiful places in the world: The White Mountains in northeastern Arizona.  The place is absolutely breathtaking, especially if you love mountains that stretch forever, pine trees that touch the sky, and cloudless blue skies that sting your eyes. 

We even saw a few elk.  Elk are bigger than deer and if you ever get the chance to see one, particularly a bull elk, up close and personal, you'll freak.  They're as big as trucks. 

During my downtime, I did quite a bit of writing (no big surprise) and a lot of reading.  I've been into the books of Laurie Halse Anderson lately, especially after reading SPEAK.  I just finished WINTERGIRLS, a tough read for lots of reasons.  My review is posted on Goodreads.  I also downloaded Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER to my nook and have begun rereading it.  It's one of my fav books and I was in the mood for a little time travel escapism.

Anyway, reading WINTERGIRLS, I started thinking a lot about "voice" in books.  WINTERGIRLS is loaded with it.  Anderson likes to write in present tense, first person, and I love the chances she takes with writing style.  There is voice on every page, in every sentence of her novels.   How do you know there is "voice" in a book, either as a writer or a reader?  What does "voice" mean to you? 

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Joanna St. James said...

is what i have when I write a book for my own pleasure, not targeted at any publisher or line.
I found out write from the male's POV comes easy to me and even when I do the female's POV you still end up knowing the Hero better.
This is obviously not the norm but I am learning to work with my voice.

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Joanna,

I find that I do my best writing when I write just for me. Put it this way, when you're not worrying about getting something ready for publication/query and you just let your fingers and brain flow, I think that's when you're closest to your story and "voice."

It's not easy writing in a male POV, so kudos to you!

margaret blake said...

Fascinating blog. I had no idea that Arizona could look so green and gorgeous.

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Margaret,

When people think of Arizona, they think of the desert--and rightly so, as it spans most of the central and southern portions of the state (AZ is very large!). However, the northern and eastern parts of the state are considered "high desert." The temps are much cooler, it is green, mountainous, and does get a fair amount of snow in the winter.

Talli Roland said...

The White Mountains sound gorgeous.

Voice is a tricky thing, isn't it? It's hard to get in on every page and to balance it right so it doesn't sound like you're trying too hard and jerk the reader out of the narrative.

Nicki Elson said...

I can't believe that's Arizona. Okay, White Mountains going ton my to-visit list.

I have to admit, I keep hearing about "voice" but I'm a little fuzzy on what it exactly means. To me it means that the character's voice is distinct to them, when they talk you know it's them even without dialogue tags. And even the generic narrator should have a distinct voice. Am I even close?

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Talli,

I agree with you that sometimes writers can go overboard. Example: Making a 16-year old girl/boy too witty, too clever, too glib, too sarcastic. I think voice is like the porridge: When it's right, you just know (both as a writer and a reader).

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Nicki,

I think what you've described is one aspect of voice: making the character's voice sound realistic and authentic. What I meant in this post was something slightly different. Voice to me is when as a reader, it's as if the main character is talking directly to me. The character is real, in a sense, believable and authentic. That happens through realistic dialogue, believable backstory, even authentic world-building. I know that feels kind of grey and squishy, but that's what voice means to me. Again, when it happens, it's a beautiful thing.

That help?

Jenny Schwartz said...

As a reader, a strong voice gives me the sense of encountering an interesting person/potential friend.

As a writer, I find voice incredibly challenging. I can't even think how to describe it. I know that if I've been away from a story for a while I have to re-read to capture the voice. It's as if different stories require a different writerly personality from me.

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Jenny,

That's so true about a manuscript you haven't worked on in a while. I have to start from the beginning too.

Lydia Kang said...

Hi Liz!
Just found your blog today.
I was going to say something like what you said about porridge. Voice is hard to describe, but when you read a good voice, you just know it. It's not trying too hard, and it doesn't fade into the background either.

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Lydia!

So glad you found my little corner of the world and glad you're here! :-) Yes, I agree. Voice is one of those intangible things that's not easily defined. It's such an interesting topic that I plan to talk more about it tomorrow!