Hello, writers. Who’s your favorite writer? Wait, before you answer that…
Jot down everything you can think of that makes that writer your favorite.
Now look at the list. Do all those things tend toward a particular idea or aspect of writing or storytelling? Or toward two or three aspects of storytelling/writing? What are they? (Please tell us in the comments.)
With me, it always comes down largely to narrative voice. And that must be a fairly common taste, because I can think of several writers who appear to be selling on voice alone.
If you’ve got good characters and a good plot and good voice, you’ve got it made.
If you’ve got good characters and a good plot but the voice is pedestrian— you might be collecting a lot of rejection slips.
I think voice is so popular because it makes us feel like we’ve got company. Someone else is looking at this crazy world (or his/her own crazy world, which is in some way similar to ours) and dealing with it through humor, sarcasm, wry asides, rants.
Voice is personality. It’s what makes a novel (or short story, biography, song lyric, any non-academic piece of writing really) not sound like an encyclopedia article.
Sometimes the voice is clearly the author’s. (Terry Pratchett is a good example of this—sudden rants about stepladders and all.) Sometimes it’s the protagonist’s—the story appears to be told from a third-person limited viewpoint by an anonymous narrator, but descriptions of scene and action are soaked in the protagonist’s speech habits, concerns, and worldview. (This is pretty common. I do it all the time.) Less often the voice is of a narrator who, at least nominally, isn’t the protagonist—our good old Dr. Watson for example.
Choose one of the situations below. Use the third-person limited viewpoint. (That means you can only see inside one character’s head, but you write in the third person, using “he” or “she” instead of “I”. That character is usually the protagonist but it could be someone else.)
Describe the scene and the other characters. Don’t refer to what your chosen character is thinking, just describe the scene. But let your chosen character’s voice take over the description.- Goodwife Thankful Goodheart is feeding her hens and minding her own business when she sees that awful Agnes Addlepate giving her the evil eye.Oh, and try to limit yourself to 100 words. (You don’t need backstory.)
- Belinda sees Lord Postlethwaite-Praxleigh (pronounced Puppy) leaving the ballroom on the arm of her rival, Adelaide, who isn’t even capable of appreciating all he went through in the Peninsular Wars
- The battle isn’t going so well for intrepid mercenary soldier Wallace Higginbotham.
- A callow youth and his/her stout companion, having just received word that someone dropped the sacred Jewel of Togwogmagog in the Eternal Swamp, have gone back to look for it.
- A stranger has come to the Wiltchester Dragon Farm, wanting to buy a baby dragon, but ace dragon breeder Jocasta Entwhistle doesn’t trust him one bit.
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