Friday, March 5, 2010

Novels. Voices. General Insanity.

I started working on a new book a while back. I wrote about 80 pages before I realized.

This is the exact same Voice of my last book.

For example:

In LEGENDARY DAYS, the main character might say something like: I'm walking through the halls like everybody is watching, like I'm the main man on the screen or whatever. And hell if I even give a damn.*

It took a long time for me to perfect the frenetic Voice that is Head, the main character. It's something that I can slip into in a matter of seconds, making re-writes for LEGENDARY DAYS pretty easy. However, the problem came when I noticed my new main character was speaking in the exact. same. way.

Something like: And then this fool comes up to me without even saying a damn word, just plops his cup right down in my bin and keeps all smiling and laughing with the rest of his cabron friends.*

After I stopped crying, I realized that the voice of one character doesn't need to be the same as the next character (shocking, I know. With this sort of writing advice, I'm about to start charging for this mess. You'd pay. I know you'd pay.)

And that's fine. I've already started creating the Voice of my new MC. And I like it. The tricky part comes in trying to figure out how much of Head's character is actually my writing Voice. I enjoy intense, fast-paced language. The type of writing that pops off the page and kicks you in the face. And I try to write that way (some people find this very annoying. They get a little piece of this... And, no, that isn't me.)

So that's my goal when I'm writing. I want something like a punk rock song. Funny, with genuine emotion. And, voila - Head. I really think Head is a memorable protagonist, if only for his completely delusional outlook on the world. I don't want to write a six part series about the dude or anything, but there are definitely aspects of his character that my writing needs.

When I re-wrote the first chapter of my new book, it seemed flat. Very boring. Like nothing somebody as Awesome as myself would put down on paper. Seriously, it seemed off. So, I went back to the previous version and found it much more enjoyable.

But, the main character's Voice could've EASILY been Head's.


Of course, this is where editing comes into the picture, right? If I looked back at early drafts of LEGENDARY DAYS, I'm sure I would see huge holes in the Voice. And - hopefully - as I'm moving forward in the submission and (egads!) publishing process of LEGENDARY DAYS, I'll be teamed with an editor who will be able to point me to places where the Voice still needs some work.

But this doesn't really answer the question, does it?

And if you've been following this blog long enough, you'll realize that I rarely (okay, never...) end up with an answer to the question I bring up.

Prepare for Times to Be Changing.

Okay, not really. I'm still stuck on this one. My best bet is that my writing Voice feeds each and every character I write. So there will always be a little bit of that frenetic "Head" voice in my characters. As I continue to flesh out this story, learning the motivations and risks for each character, I believe I'll start discovering the voice of my new M.C. Right now, I'm just trying to convince myself I'm not a complete hack.

You know, the biggest part of any 1st draft.

*neither of these are actual lines from my book. But please don't steal them. No, really. Unless you want a ninja chop to the neck or something. Yeah. That's exactly how I roll.


  1. Voice is one of those things that I totally don't get yet, but people tell me they can feel it in my writing. A critique I received and read a few minutes ago told me that I was like the uber-master of voice because I have two MC's in my novel and they could tell which one was which even when I mis-marked the chapters. I like that I'm good at it, but...I wanna know why and how. How do I do it? I don't know. Like you, I never answer my own questions. When I pose them on my blog, I get thirty different answers and they all sound right to me even when they're contradictory. Ugh.

    So, I totally get ya.

  2. There were several distinct points when reading this post that I laughed out loud. So, thanks for that. And then there was the moment that I was so sad you were crying (see, I told you I was super gullible!). What a roller coaster! Anywho, I think that this will sort out over time. I mean, you've been living for years with this character in your head. You'll get into the head of your next character too (or vice versa) and then change the voice in the first couple of chapters. I have faith.

  3. Jonathon - I think Voice is the way you use words and how you structure sentences and paragraphs. Not to mention dialogue. My short answer.

    Heather - I have faith too. It's just hard!

  4. I was worried about this same thing happening, so I made the main character of the new book a girl instead of a guy and I wrote in third person. Problem solved. (Too bad there's, like, thirty-two other problems to deal with.)

  5. Oh, man, I know what you mean. Sometimes, I get in a cold sweat thinking I'm a one trick pony and I can only write a certain way. I want a distinctive, yummy nacho cheese flavored voice, but I worry about keeping things fresh.

  6. Paul - good luck with the other problems. I know all of them well.

    Jenny - That may be the first time I've ever agreed with a sentence involving the words "fresh" and "nacho cheese flavored."