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Monday, July 11, 2011

I hear voices...

“I had a feeling he didn’t love me anymore, she thought, but this is ridiculous.”

A quote from SKINNY DIP by Carl Hiaasen, which I read this weekend. What makes it especially funny is that the thought goes through the main character’s head after she is tossed overboard from a cruise ship by her no good husband. The book is campy to the extreme, but talk about voice. It was unlike anything else I’d ever read, and laugh out loud funny in several spots.

Voice is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. In the research I’ve been doing during the querying process, it seems to be one of the most important qualities that agents are looking for in a writer’s work. It’s also one of the hardest things to nail. Without a strong voice, the words float on the page like a dead fish.

My main character is on the snarky and funny side, but I honestly cannot remember how she came to be that way. I knew when I sat down to write my book that no shrinking violet would do for me. A feisty lead is way more interesting. But somehow her personality evolved as I kept writing. If I went back and looked at my character letters, I’m sure it would be clear how she evolved to be the character she is. And just how I got to that distinctive voice that is all her own.

So I’m curious, dear readers, how do you come up with the voice in your work—or do you know?


  1. I think voice comes from within, as well as being something that emanates from your favorite books and how the authors' voices sound there. I love Agatha Christie, so sometimes I sound like a British woman from the 30s. I think what you say is your main's personality evolves and your voice with it. It's sort of like watching a kid grow up. At first, it's this indistinct, bald, wrinkled, new thing that can't stand on its own. Then it becomes its own person, rising from the ashes and looking you square in the face with its own ideas and personality.

  2. To play the devils advocate (but not the way Keanu Reeves played him) I think voice is influenced by external mediums more than internal. While many characters I write have a little bit of me in them their main foundation is something that was influenced by someone I met, a movie I saw, a creepy dude on the subway, that cat over there that keeps looking at me funny... As soon as you have the foundation the voice grows naturally.

  3. Thanks for weighing in, very interesting thoughts! I suppose it works differently for everyone. Some of my characters have definitely been inspired by people I've met in real life.



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