How much does voice matter to you?

I am pretty much unoffendable, heh heh.

Excited about? There isn’t one, to be blunt. But, I keep looking. The last time I started reading a fantasy book and said... ooh! Was when I stumbled on GRRM at a B&N back in ‘97 or thereabouts. Might’ve been ‘98, I think the hardcover of Clash of Kings might’ve just come out. Or might’ve bought GoT and had it sitting around unread until CoK came out, LOL. That’s probably why I really WANTED to love name of the Wind. I bought it in PB, then blamed my eyes for not reading it, and bought the digital, and kept trying to get into it. It didn’t work, sad to say.

Neil Gaiman can write, so he is my short list of writers to get around to reading.

I tend to write exactly what I want to read, and how I want it written... so these days I end of reading/editing my work rather than other people’s. I also keep checking out indie authors, see if I can find something. There is plenty of good out there, but nothing that excites me.

All points clearly made and understood, Demesnedenoir – it surely is funny how people are different! Shame The Name of the Wind didn’t do it for you. But hey – that’s OK. It’s a big world. We can’t all be into the same stuff, can we? And please don’t think I mean any disrespect to Tolkien. The influence that gentleman has had on my life over the past forty years has been HUGE. The word ‘fan’ goes nowhere near expressing the esteem I have for him as a creator, writer and all-round top-class bloke.

I dunno … I seem to be out of step with pretty much everyone else on this thread. But still, as far as I see it, narrative voice of one kind or another is an inevitable consequence of the writing process – everyone who writes develops one by default. It’s not something we’re all obliged to make a song and dance about. I don’t see anything wrong in working toward a neutral, or generic, storyteller’s tone and just writing a good tale for its own sake without worrying about how individual or revelatory of the author’s character the style may be.

What’s more important to our readers? The story, or insights into the personality of the writer? For me, in sci-fi and fantasy at least, the story comes first (most of the time).

Incidentally, if Rothfuss sends you to sleep, who are the contemporary fantasy writers you think are worth getting excited about?
 

Chessie2

Staff
Article Team
All points clearly made and understood, Demesnedenoir – it surely is funny how people are different! Shame The Name of the Wind didn’t do it for you. But hey – that’s OK. It’s a big world. We can’t all be into the same stuff, can we? And please don’t think I mean any disrespect to Tolkien. The influence that gentleman has had on my life over the past forty years has been HUGE. The word ‘fan’ goes nowhere near expressing the esteem I have for him as a creator, writer and all-round top-class bloke.

I dunno … I seem to be out of step with pretty much everyone else on this thread. But still, as far as I see it, narrative voice of one kind or another is an inevitable consequence of the writing process – everyone who writes develops one by default. It’s not something we’re all obliged to make a song and dance about. I don’t see anything wrong in working toward a neutral, or generic, storyteller’s tone and just writing a good tale for its own sake without worrying about how individual or revelatory of the author’s character the style may be.

What’s more important to our readers? The story, or insights into the personality of the writer? For me, in sci-fi and fantasy at least, the story comes first (most of the time).

Incidentally, if Rothfuss sends you to sleep, who are the contemporary fantasy writers you think are worth getting excited about?
Voice isn't a choice an author makes per say
It's something that occurs naturally. If you have a generic author voice then that would be a not so good thing because it means your writing is boring.
 
This kind of goes into defining what voice is. There are both conscious and unconscious decisions. There are the conscious... I don’t open sentences with adverbial phrases/clauses very often. I can write in western, 60’s gangster, or epic voices and superfically they sound differnt, just like a person can mixup the voices of characters. BUT there is a recognizable pattern and attitude that is part of my writing which really doesn’t change. I found this fact rather interesting when I had a wild hair and started writing a gangster story... now, if I got far enough into it, the patterns might change, but I doubt it.

Also, generic author voce doesn’t need to be boring... this depends on genre and what the reder is looking for. To me, people like Patterson are disturbingly generic and thin, but is he boring? Apparently not. Again, this goes into how you define voice.

Voice isn't a choice an author makes per say
It's something that occurs naturally. If you have a generic author voice then that would be a not so good thing because it means your writing is boring.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
>Voice isn't a choice an author makes per say
>It's something that occurs naturally.

This makes me repeat the question I raised earlier. If it's natural, intrinsic, then what are we to make of writing partnerships? Especially when the voice is so distinctive (as in the case with James S.A. Comey)? @A.E. Lowan, do you have any thoughts on this?

Also, and this is the historian in me, and I hope Chessie will forgive me but I keep seeing this mistake made and I've told my fingers to shut up and it's not important but here they go anyway.

It's per se, not per say.

Latin. It means, more or less, the thing itself. Or, to use a more modern phrasing, in and of itself. There's no saying going on.

Now, fingers, aren't you embarrassed?

They say they're not embarrassed and have the nerve to add that the phrase should be italicized, being in a foreign language. Look at that. Over thirty years since the dissertation and I can still be pedantic. <grin> <grimace> <exit>
 

Peat

Sage
I'd agree about there being conscious choices when it comes to voice, at least in terms of how I define it. Beyond trying to throw my voice for various characters (particularly when writing 1st PoV), there's also the fact that I consciously choose to use less commas and run on sentences in my prose than I do my every day writing. I just finished the first draft of a story where I deliberately altered sentence length and profanity use through the piece to try and convey the changing nature of the character. There's also word choice, which I do despite knowing pretty much nobody will notice (and half the time they do, they make wrong assumptions about it).
 
Of the various features that define author voice, some are more important to me than others.

Things like sentence length, sentence type (compound or simple, for instance), comma usage, paragraph lengths, etc., don't make much of an impression on me, themselves, unless they are really bad or lead to clutter. They may affect the other things I find most important, so there's that.

I'm drawn most to habits of focus. What does the author seem to find most important for any given thing, from setting and world and event to characters and ideas? Where is the real estate—heh, how are the words being dedicated? This affects both structure and content, and things like a simple ratio of descriptive elements to, say, dialogue, might play a role; but beyond the computation (ahem), I'm usually more interested in the content, the focus. For instance, I like less a continuous focus on internal thoughts and feelings for a character—the character locked in introverted turmoil—when there's a lack of focus on the surroundings and world. Robin Hobb almost goes there with Fitz in her Farseer trilogy, but thankfully she also does a very good job of describing the settings and world, so I give her a pass. (Although admittedly I finally couldn't finish her last Farseer trilogy.) An awful lot of independently published stuff on Amazon doesn't provide what I need, at least judging by the quick previews I sometimes skim. Regardless, simple calculus would miss the point for me, because length and quantity of description, for instance, wouldn't take into account the content, the focus, and there are some things I like reading about more than others.

Edit: I forgot to add word choice. This one will depend. I am drawn to writing that is fluid, non-generic, and not very repetitive. A facility with employing a large vocabulary, heh. This one's a little hard for me to discuss, simply because...what is it I'm describing? Beyond simply developments in the story, I can be captured by developments in the sentence, in the paragraph. Probably these relate to that old subject of microtension. Regardless, a skilled use of prose can draw me in very well.
 
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I had an example of voice (depending on definition) today... I was glancing at one of my books' also boughts and saw a few books from a series, so I opened a sample. I made it about 4 (short) paragraphs... the writing at first was "meh" but I kept going until about 5 straight pieces of dialogue ended in exclamation marks.

The judgment call was made: not for me. I'm not sure whether to call it voice, or just writing I don't like... and it wasn't just the exclamation marks, those were just emphasized that this writer and I wouldn't see eye to eye on story telling, heh heh.
 

Helen

Inkling
This is something I've been mulling over quite a bit recently, as I've reflected on my own reading habits. Over the past few years, with a couple notable exceptions, I've migrated away from books where the author doesn't have a discernible voice. In other words, books where the 'voice' seems generic and interchangeable with any number of other books.

My favorite books are by authors with strong voices--Gormenghast, the works of Dorothy Dunnett, Melville, and the like. Growing up, I was into the likes of Moorcock, Vance, Lovecraft, and the like, all of whom have fairly strong voices. More recent authors like P.C. Hodgell, China Mieville, Kage Baker--good voices. I must have always been this way, because as a kid one of my favorite things about Alice in Wonderland was the author's voice.

As I write, I go back and forth on how distinctive (and apparent) a presence in the narrative I want to have as an author. Does the reading public at large prefer the author to be more invisible? Does it matter if one is writing for adults or children?

I think it's pretty important. At the very least, it makes a work much, much stronger.
 

C. L. Larson

Dreamer
I don't agree. Readers tend to be fairly discerning. Even if they don't know the name for it, I doubt they fail to notice a strong voice. It's not easy to miss. I don't know that it necessarily allows a reader to identify an author across novels, though. That would mean an author's voice is unchanging. That's not true--authors may vary their voice from work to work, depending on what they're writing and what they feel works best in each instance.
I am a new writer and I have found my voice changes slightly with different character points of veiw. I try to become the character who's point of veiw I'm writing so the narrative, not just dialogue, changes slightly.

Is a change in voice within the same book a bad thing?
 

Svrtnsse

Staff
Article Team
Is a change in voice within the same book a bad thing?
Not in and of itself. It all depends on how and why it happens.
If the voice changes depending on which PoV character you're writing from, then that's probably good. If it just changes randomly without any discernible reason, it's probably something to watch out for - but it all depends on too many things to say for sure.
 
I am a new writer and I have found my voice changes slightly with different character points of veiw. I try to become the character who's point of veiw I'm writing so the narrative, not just dialogue, changes slightly.

Is a change in voice within the same book a bad thing?

If the change in voice is jarring? It's possible to go too far, at least so I was told when starting a new POV character late in book 1... which is also probably a no-no rule I broke, heh heh. I rounded the edges of the narrative voice, never heard a complaint about it sense. But like most rules, they're all breakable, if done well.
 

EMoon

Dreamer
An aside to this conversation...I did not realize how often I vocalize or subvocalize while writing, mumbling along until something's "right" until I tried to use Dragon Naturally Speaking during an episode of hand pain. If you haven't used Dragon...it does not like the writer/speaker to be expressive. Says so even in the materials that come with it. It likes a flat, monotone, non-expressive voice. And I can't do that when I'm making Story. I slow down, speed up, get louder or softer, emphasize words and minimize other words...that's what I'm "hearing" as I'm moving my fingers on the keyboard...and that's what I do when I'm telling a story. I don't have a clue what that says about my "voice" in the writing itself, and I'm not sure I need to. When a writer has a distinctive voice, I think it's because they're writing without looking in the mirror...without being aware of themselves, just the story, and so it's like a singer who's no longer self-conscious about the audience...the voice can come through without hindrance. And as with singers' voices, it's a voice made up of everything that person is, everything they've experienced.
 
Voice doesn't have to be extremely poetic, but I can't stand bland, standard prose. There has to be some voice there.
 
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