Finding Voice, Pt. 1 ~
Many new or untrained writers face difficulty with the concept of voice in their stories. It’s easy enough to say, “Of course it’s consistent, I wrote it” or “What do you mean voice? It’s my voice.” or something similar. The fact of the matter is, unless you’re writing your memoir or a non-fiction story about yourself or your experiences it really shouldn’t be your voice telling the story.
Are the alarm bells ringing?
I agree with you that every author has a distinctive style but the voice or voices of narration should reflect the character from whose perspective we are reading the tale.
So, how do you edit for voice?
– Know your target market (who will be reading your story)
– Be consistent (with basic characterization)
– Be realistic (with dialogue & ability)
Know Your Target Market
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “Your target market cannot be everyone.” It may very well be true that people of all ages, races, and walks of life will love your story but only if the message is universal and it speaks true to some part of them (their childhood spirit, teen experience, adult perception, senior moments, etc.). People young and old from around the world love J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series – why? She focused on the YA market with the same age range in mind as the age of her main characters. By being specific she reached everyone without even meaning to.
That being said, once you’ve identified your genre, age range, and any other specifics that would appeal more to one group than another, you can take a critical look at your writing.
Does my vocabulary reflect the general knowledge-base of my target reader? (yes, you can challenge your reader depending on who it is, but don’t go overboard on trying to ‘teach’ language – they’re here to read and enjoy the story)
Are the average lengths of my phrases and sentences in tune with my readers’ preferences? (again, yes, you will use different lengths for structure depending on what is happening in the story and what you’re trying to convey but you’ll need to accommodate for the average attention span and retention of information in your audience)
Have I presented new or different concepts in an easy-to-understand way? (Madelelne L’Engle wrote about the advanced notion of the tesseract in her middle-grade novel A Wrinkle in Time which won countless acclaim and literary awards and just happened to be one of my favourite books as a 10 year old – she didn’t talk above me or below me but to me)
Is my content appropriate? (This is huge! I recently read a middle grade novel by an Indie Author that went into explicit detail about a man getting his rocks off by bringing pain to an orphaned baby… now I’m not saying that 10-year-olds shouldn’t be aware that such people exist in society but devoting a detailed account to an entire chapter goes way beyond what is considered ‘acceptable’ by today’s scholastic and professional standards)
The results of these four questions alone can make or break your manuscript and are integral to finding the true voice of your work and your characters.
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