The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. Feel free to hop around to the various blogs and see what you learn! The rules and sign-up form are below the list of hop participants. All authors at all stages of their careers are welcome to join.
To continue hopping to other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click here.
‘What is Voice?’
Let’s unpack the definition of ‘voice’ and consider the differences.
Voice is KING!
There are many types of Voice, but here are the two important types: Narrative voice and Authorial voice.
NARRATIVE VOICE (NV):
In simple terms, NV is the character’s voice, but there’s more to it. Some writers incorrectly believe that NV and point of view are the same things. I did. They’re not. The NV is separate though influenced by POV. A relatable and engaging (even if unreliable) NV (the voice of the character who is narrating the story) ensures the reader remains invested. The author chooses POV to best suit their story, based on how close the author wants the reader to be to the protagonist (who is not always the narrator). The NV comes from their individual characteristics and the choices the author makes to ‘bring the narrator to life’, if you like. How do they behave, feel in certain circumstances, what makes them weep or laugh, etc? How do they see the world and relate to it?
A weak plot with an engaging NV connects with the reader, is memorable and stands more chance of land a publishing deal. A great plot with no NV doesn’t connect with the reader, is unremarkable and unmemorable.
Think of the NV as the soul of the POV character.
AUTHORIAL VOICE (AV):
This is the most difficult ‘technique’ in story writing to define and grasp. An author’s voice leaks into their writing when given the space to do so. The narrative choices an author makes (such as which POV, setting, theme, plot, syntax, pace, mood, emotional reach), their view of the world, experiences within their world, and how they all inform narrative decisions.
We can compare AV with musical instruments. A trumpet and a piano are both musical instruments and they may even follow the same piece of music, but they’re wholly different in their construction, sound, and how they’re played, etc. Similarly, one author’s voice may be more lyrical with longer sentences and poetic language, another might be fast-paced with short powerful sentences.
Some would argue this is NV. Maybe, but more the AV is your personal stamp or signature which overlays all else and if the author has a strong ‘voice’, it will identify one author from another like the sound of one instrument from another. Also, some will say their AV changes according to the genre of the story—say, from horror to YA—but for me, what changes is the NV and setting, etc.
Think of the AV as the soul of the author (not of the narrator or POV character).
This may help (or not) to clarify my points:
I read a great book lately The Last 100 Days by Patrick McGuinness. This is set in Bucharest in 1989 and plunges us immediately into the poverty and neglect created and maintained by Communist rule via an unnamed narrator as he journeys through the final 100 days of Ceausescu’s life.
Patrick McGuinness chose an unconventional way to tell his story. The setting is the protagonist and the unnamed narrator tells the story in the first-person point of view. Yet, this narrator shows no emotion, but his voice is clear in his interpretation of the world. His unemotional perspective leaves us in no doubt as to the setting (the protagonist). The setting gets its own NV through the POV narrator who’s essentially a voyeur of the tragic lives of the people he meets in communist Bucharest.
At first, I found this whole set-up confusing. It was too distant and too detached, but the more I read, the more I wanted to work out why (on earth) he had made such choices.
Then it struck me—had he told his story any other way, the setting wouldn’t have been at the centre of the story. The protagonist would become the POV character as in 90% of all stories. McGuinness wanted us to ‘see’ the setting in all its inhumanity using a close perspective, but without his narrator’s emotions getting in the way. In doing this, we see everything through his eyes but have room to experience our own emotions about what he sees.
AV oozed through the pages of this novel. From the unconventional POV choice, chosen to convey the story he wanted to tell it the way only he could have told it. From his eloquent and beautiful portrayal of the narrator’s ugly surroundings. Through the dark, heart-breaking NV of the protagonist (setting), and the NV of the emotionally distant POV narrator.
For me, and hopefully you, this book offers an excellent example of the difference between AV, NV and POV. I highly recommend this book. It was not only a lesson in history but also creative writing and how it is possible to push the bar out of the usual into the unusual with remarkable results. *Super cool: I met Patrick last week at university at his guest speaking spot. I asked A LOT of questions 🙂