Sorry for my absence for a while. I had to finish a Manuscript. While doing that, I was reminded again of an author’s “voice.”
VOICE! That’s what “Literary Agents” look for: a strong, enticing, original, sparkling, superb, surprising “voice” in your writing. As I started writing, I read books and essays about “voice.” It was as mysterious to me as the vague “audience.”
Literary agents point to how the author’s writing comes across – woody, conventional, boring, long-winded or, yes, “surprisingly superb, stunning, unique.” They talk about “tone” and “style” as part of the essential “voice” components. What does “voice” to a reader? It depends on who reads, who critiques, and to a large extent on what the story is about, Some like it hot, some like it cool, some like it dreamy, others like it cruel and hard. Implying you would use different voices for different genres. It’s so easy to say what you must do. It’s so much harder to do what they say.
Very few “voice” professors compare voice to composers, music, and audience. Since I am a musician and like classical music and jazz, I recognize each composer with his different sound or “voice.” Listening to the radio, I immediately recognize Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Gershwin or Glenn Miller. Each singer has a different voice (here we’re talking about the real meaning of “voice”). I recognize Pavarotti, Domingo, Callas, even Caruso (older people like me). Jazz musicians have a different “voice,” such as pianists like Errol Garner, George Shearing, Dave Brubeck, Ahmad Jamal and Bill Evans. All have different audiences, although some are shared.
Like composers, authors have a beginning, a middle and an end, sometimes torrential. What does this mean for me as a writer? Apart from learning the craft, a writer needs to develop a particular voice to get “read,” as for a composer to get played, or for a player or singer to fill an audience in the concert hall.
Just recently I watched renowned Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., playing a most intricate concert for violin by Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich. Her Stradivarius violin has a very warm voice, her style is remarkably varied, very melodious, powerful, and moving. She got three standing ovations. After the intermission, she sat in my box to listen to – a very different – Brahms’ second symphony and since we could talk Dutch, we chatted about how she learned to play so well. She began playing at 5 years old. At the age of 14 she played Paganini’s First Violin Concerto! There you go: a “miracle kid.” (wunderkind). Do you have to be a miracle kid to write a best seller and to get read?
Two things struck me: with modern composers, it is much more difficult to pinpoint a typical “voice.” Some modern poets I can’t follow because of the remote universe of their words. A writer must also write stories in a manner that people like.
There are writers who use currently available software (prowritingaid.com. grammarly.com, just to name a few) which may help wordiness, grammar, punctuation, or “sticky sentences.” However, while “brainy,” software does not have a “heart.” It does not produce feeling or the tone of your “voice.” That has to come from within. Some authors have it or have it more than others. Some of it can be learned by trial and error, but at some stage, you reach what your voice represents. I tried hard to play like my idols, but I just didn’t have their gift. Do I have to accept the same feat in my efforts to have a voice good enough to get books sold?
I believe you need to write several books before you find your “voice,” a voice “that is not intrusive or flamboyant or pretentious and allows the reader to focus on character and action.” (those are award-winning author Mark Spencer’s words, my editor).
Good, I am not a “miracle kid” jumping off the stage like in American Idol. Writing gives me peace of mind. Like playing on the piano, knowing I’m not sounding like Ahmad Jamal. I love to draw up a story and take it to the finish. Some readers like my stories and a few of them gave me good reviews. I’m just happy to see the finished products sitting on my bookshelves, and on someone else’s. I like to run to a few book signings at B&N, and sell 3 books an hour in 4 long hours. I like to chat with my “audience.” Some people who read my books apparently like my “voice.” They are in my “audience.” Musicians like to chat with their audience, too, to sell their CDs. “Voice.” That’s what it is, composed, heard, or read.
But if you heard me singing in my bathroom, you’d all be running away, screaming.
For your spring reading:
Some Women I Have Known – http://amzn.to/1QIL94B; https://youtu.be/CehtAV55QpU ; Audrey Hepburn and Lady D can’t stop John from falling off the keyboard. But who does?
Enchanting the Swan – http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o ; https://youtu.be/8vHdGKGWQEo ; Pianist Paul loses cellist Fiona and does all to redeem her love.
Coming soon: Francine, The Dazzling Daughter of the Mountain State – Francine, a bright West Virginian MBA graduate, rises to the top of a mining conglomerate, demobilizes the anti-mining lobby, but will she save the company and find love in the meantime?