Monday, October 28, 2013

Brie McGill – Finding Your Voice @briemcgill

at 5:00 AM

Finding Your Voice

by Brie McGill

I remember the first time I found my voice: I was thirteen years old, mastered a few power chords on the guitar, rehearsed an awful Courtney Love impersonation by my lonesome, and received my first amp. I knew I broke into that voice when the first neighbor threw a sneaker at my head. The moment was definitive.

Finding a voice in writing is much the same way: I know when I’ve found it, it’s an unmistakable feeling–not quite like having some dirt and a backwards imprint of Nike smashed into my face, but equally direct.

When I finished my first book, Kain, I felt like VOICE was the holy grail of authors: every agent’s website screamed at me, “Voice! Voice!” Writing workshops, writing websites, writing forums, all of them vehemently stress the importance of voice.

What is voice? It’s the voice of the main character, the character whose viewpoint filters the story.

As a new writer, this was a particularly challenging concept, because much of my education dealt with formal writing. Some grammatical rules are mandatory because the written word must make sense–otherwise, imagine a busy intersection with no traffic lights–but fiction is not so stilted.

Imagine a nineteen-year-old country bumpkin visiting an upscale lingerie store downtown. She might blush, delicately leafing through the coral silks, the ivory silks, in search of something with pearls and scalloped lace.

Now imagine an ex-convict with an unkempt beard rolling up on his motorcycle, ready to storm into a lingerie store downtown. He might spit before busting through the door, roll his eyes at a rack of frilly pink things, and look for something leather to…

Well, that’s the idea. The word choice of the narration must reflect the main character’s opinions, worldview, and experience. The color “coral” does not exist in our biker friend’s vocabulary–much like an entire dictionary of swears would never flow from the sweet lips of our nineteen-year-old country bumpkin.

Another delicate point to consider when crafting a character’s voice is the character’s relevant knowledge base. In the draft of my first opening scene, I made a gross error about the way an unconscious body is transported–thankfully, a military friend looked over the manuscript and spared me total humiliation. Despite the fact I had done an enormous amount of research for the book, this drove home the fact that voice-appropriate attention to detail is indispensible, and one can never research too much.

When I start writing a book, I have all the characters imagined in my mind; the process of writing continues to refine them and I learn more about my characters along the way. Often during the latter half of penning a rough draft, I reach a point where I know my characters well enough to poke fun at them. I can place them in ironic situations and play upon their weaknesses for comic relief. This, to me, is the golden indicator that I have indeed found my voice–and my findings are easily incorporated into the following reconstructive edit.

For authors struggle with finding the voice of a piece, focus on the character. Focus on what makes him human, what makes him quirky, and indulge the details–I promise, the voice will follow.

When you finally find your voice, maybe you will even break some glass–or at the very least, amass a nice runner collection.


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Genre –  Sci-Fi/Steamy Romance

Rating – R (18+)

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