Finding Voice, Pt. 3 ~
We’ve established so far that not only does your voice need to be consistent and properly focused toward your ideal reader but your characters’ voices need a ring of authenticity. Even if you’re writing high fantasy or other-world sci-fi your dialogue and the abilities of the people who populate your writing need to be realistic.
The problem with being realistic is that there are always exceptions to the norm and you wouldn’t necessarily be writing about these people if they were 100% normal (or the events they find themselves in). But that’s the key right there – you don’t want to alienate your readers by having elements be too far beyond normal. That being said, if “normal” means there are vampires and dragons or water-breathing humanoids on your planet then the idea of suspended belief comes into play and normal represents the overriding world your characters live and breathe in. Whether you’re world building on an another planet or reshaping the earth we know and love it’s imperative to ground your reader in realistic moments.
Am I being consistent in my world? If the sky is purple in chapter 1 is it still purple in chapter 17 or is that part of the changing plot?
Are my people reflective of real people (even my monsters)? Are their mannerisms driven by society or familial upbringing?
Are my characters approachable? Are they similar enough to other people in reality to make them familiar?
Do I maintain expected speech patterns and have dialogue mirror recognizable types of people?
If a particular character tends to slur the ends of his words at the ends of his sentences, is this consistent throughout the book? If not, why not? (and other similar manifestations of repeated characteristics)
Is the science believable/plausible? If cars run on bio-fuel or fairy dust, have you explained the basic workings behind this? If the inner workings of the cars are not important then ask yourself why you mentioned it. If it was to help set the feel of the world it should enhance what is happening or a particular character and not just be there for the sake of being there (the same goes for any other element that reflects a mirrored reality to our own).
Are there enough true-to-life moments/emotions/reactions/scenarios to allow my reader to connect with the characters and the plot?
Have I stayed true to where I’m writing about? If you’ve never been to New York, are you certain your references to it are accurate or similar enough for those near-future plot lines?
Have I stayed true to who I’m writing about? If your character is afraid of heights and suddenly climbing a tree is no problem for them or riding in a glass elevator – make sure these abnormal moments have be addressed or explained… if not, rewrite them to make sense for the character.
Basically, if your target reader cannot relate to the core elements in your book how are they to enjoy what you’ve written? It is especially difficult for non-contemporary writers to build their worlds and keep them realistically balanced between the known and unknown or unfamiliar elements. That doesn’t mean that you can say there’s a subway (underground) under certain streets or neighbourhoods if none have never existed and you’re writing about a contemporary experience. If you get the uniform wrong for a certain profession, people will find out. If the accent you give a character isn’t portrayed with just the right flare you’ll risk losing any reader who’s ever met someone who speaks that way.
It is always when things don’t ring true or break the given reality of your book that you run the risk of losing your voice and your reader.
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