Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Voice

I'd like to issue a big apology to those of you reading this from Goodreads. There seems to be some sort of a glitch with the images. I have tried to change it, but seems as though the blogger platform is just the way it is...

Anyway, this week's post is on Voice.

So: Here is where we are:
- you have the idea for your story
- you have your basic plot outlined
- you know your characters
- you know which of them (if any) will narrate the story.


The last thing you need to know is - how will the story be told.

I am calling this Voice. Some people say 'first person' or 'third person'. But here's a lot more to story-telling than just point of view.

To me, Voice is what makes a story come alive. It's when you believe in the character so absolutely that you fall in love.  It's more than the point of view (POV); it's the tone of the whole story.

Examples of Great Voice

  • Harry Potter 
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. 
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • How We Live Now
  • Lolita
  • The Fault in Our Stars

Techniques for Developing Voice

Point of View

Write a few paragraphs as first person, a few as third person. What works best? What makes the story come alive? For example, when I wrote A Necklace of Souls, I started writing Will's section as a third person and it just ....worked. So I stuck with it. Dana's sections, on the other hand, are in first person.


Write a few paragraphs in past tense (he said) and a few in present (he says). (Future rarely works but I suppose if you're being creative you could try it!)

Present tense gives a sense of immediacy to the story, as though the character is right there, in the moment. It's used in The Hunger Games to great effect.

Past tense is more suited to a narrative style, and I think it's easier to sustain the reader's interest, because sometimes present can grate.


Think about the dialogue of your characters. How do they talk to each other.

If your character is a young child, they will have a more limited vocabulary than say, a university professor.

Use words that reflect the personality of the narrator. In Curious Incident, the narrator is an autistic boy - so Haddon uses concrete language, expressed in plain terms.

And, as always in writing, try and avoid passive nouns: 'had', 'was', 'were'. They slow the story.

Next week, we'll hopefully start actually writing.

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