The Voice by Vivienne Lynge

Hello Scriblers!  Happy Saturday to you.  Vivienne Lynge here.  Over the next few weeks, I want to tell you about a few things I learned at RWA National Conference.  I took some WONDERFUL workshops and I thought I’d share a bit about my favorite three.  Today, I want to share a bit of Deb Dixon’s workshop on Finding Your Voice.

Voice is one of those things that authors hear about a lot.  “Oh, her voice is so authentic!”  Or from agents, “To represent a project, I’ve got to love the author’s voice.”  That’s all well and good, but unless the story is in audio-book form, there is no voice to hear.  And if it is an audio-book, the voice is probably an actor, not the author.

But of course all these people are not talking about something they heard with their ears.  An author’s voice is often described as the author’s style, the syntax and vocabulary they use.  Deb Dixon says that voice is more than that.  She says that voice comes by accessing your own authentic emotions and using them to inform your writing.

For example – the next time you have an honest-to-God, over-the-top, toddler-style freak-out about something (come on – we all have ’em from time to time) when it’s over, take a moment to jot down those thoughts, actions and emotions that triggered it.  What was that last straw that threw you over the edge?  What were the pressures that built up to that last straw? 

krackatoaNow when you write a character who’s having a melt down, reread your comments about your own melt down and use that information.  Let’s say I have a close relative who just gets under my skin, pushes my buttons like nobody else in my life can do.  Every once in a while, that comes to a head and like Krakatoa, I explode – often loud enough to be heard miles away.  If I write down how it happened to me, next time I have a character get angry, I can style the fictional triggers after my own. 

That’s my voice.  That’s unique to me.  Nobody else is wired exactly the same way I am.  We are all similar and that’s what makes one person’s emotional experience relate-able to another’s, but we’re not exactly the same. And my voice will carry through my body of work.  It’s often what gets people to come back, book after book, shelling out their hard earned dollars for a few hours of entertainment.

Now of course anger isn’t a particularly personal emotion.  I’m very willing to share it with others. Sometimes too willing – ala Krakatoa.  😉  Embarrassment, humiliation, hurt, love, passion, emotional risks and failures – those are much more private and may be more difficult to share with a world of people, many of whom may comment on your product.  But that authentic emotion is a big part of voice.  It will inform your character arcs, the themes you write, the plots you create, your scenes.  Don’t shy away from voice – embrace it.  

Today’s secret: if you ever get the opportunity to hear Deb Dixon, do so!  This was a wonderful workshop, that frankly, I’d like to take again.  I’m sure I’d get even more out of it a second time through.

Who do you think has a great authorial voice?  Whose writing speaks to you?  Who do you find recognizable even from a small sample of their work?  For me – the first one that comes to mind is Lynn Kurland.  I love her romances.

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3 thoughts on “The Voice by Vivienne Lynge”

  1. Great post, Viv. I took Deb’s “Voice” workshop at the EPIC conference over this past spring. I loved it too! It made me realize that certain recurrent themes come through in all my books and that that’s okay. The fact that I write a lot about death and dying is no accident. I do it well because I’ve had more than my fair share of loss and grief over losing a loved one and I draw from those emotions and experiences. Conveniently, I write YA where there are typically a lot of dead parents and siblings–a fact of life that is especially difficult for teens and forces them to face the harsh realities of life and grow beyond them. I also recognized the common themes of trust, honesty, and the secrets that families keep. These are compelling and relateable themes that I think make my voice come through clearly and make interesting dynamics in the story and great opportunities for growth within the character arcs.

    As you know, I’m a big Diana Gabaldon fan and I think part of it is because of her distinctive voice. I could read a passage from just about any of her work and identify her vivid description and lyrical prose. She tends to have a more complex sentence structure, which I love and leans more toward a literary bent, but she makes it work because of the depth of emotion she infuses onto every page.

    Thanks for reminding me about Deb’s workshop. It’s bringing back some great insights:-)

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