Sunday, March 20, 2011

Voice workshop part 2

Day 2: Samples

We each found passages from published books and analyzed them for what made them voicey. For copyright reasons I won’t post all the passages here, but we had selections from the following fabulous books:

Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr
Junie B. Jones is (Almost) a Flower Girl, Barbara Park
The Tale of Desperaux, Kate DiCamillo
Sharp’s Rifles, Bernard Cornwell
The Midwife’s Apprentice, Karen Cushman
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling
Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
Just Take My Heart, Mary Higgins Clark
The True Meaning of Smekday, Adam Rex
Scumble, Ingrid Law
Crossing to Paradise, Kevin Crossley-Holland
London Calling, Edward Bloor
The Star of Kazan, Eva Ibbotson
A Curse Dark as Gold, Elizabeth C. Bunce
Rules, Cynthia Lord
Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens, Brandon Sanderson
Palace Beautiful, Sarah DeFord Williams

And a couple more we didn’t discuss but which have strong voice:

Dairy Queen, Catherine Gilbert Murdock
I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett
Flipped, Wendelin van Draanen
The Underneath, Kathi Appelt

What I learned from these—ie, what gives them voice:

--specificity of language

--language that that character would know

--concerns that character specifically would have

--sometimes, what is NOT said as well as what IS said

--sometimes, the dialogue/interaction between two characters

--sometimes, the irony of the real situation and what the character believes is reality, causing humor or a surge of pity on the reader’s part


--turning a known story or phrase inside out

--depending on tone of story, making narrative sound more like dialogue (specifically, how a certain character would talk, even if it’s rambling)

--tells you something about your POV character, even if it’s technically while advancing plot or describing setting

--uses strong, exact, meaningful language, with a preference for nouns and verbs over flabby modifiers. (Some modifiers okay, of course—but used in moderation)

--more attention paid to the right words for the right character/situation than to a prescriptive set of rules (ie you can see things like “a bit” and other “weak” modifiers in some of these examples—but for this specific setting/character, they are the RIGHT words to lend character)

--Rhythm can be important, showing how quickly time seems to flow for the character (whether they want it or not). It can make you HAVE to read a book out loud. It adds to mood and character.

--Sometimes books stick very close to the characters' voices so that you are in their heads, as if it is really happening. Other times, the voice is more of a whole-book emphasis (like the Appelt or DiCamillo examples), where the point is to gather you up and tell you a story, as if someone is orally relating this to you, and the whole experience--storyteller plus story plus listener--is what's important, not *just* the story.

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