Thursday, October 25, 2012

That Voice Thing

I've decided Patrick Ness is one of the greatest authors on the planet. Not only because his novel A Monster Calls is possibly my favorite book ever, but because I just started his Chaos Walking trilogy, and realized the man is a master of voice. He wrote A Monster Calls in third limited, and did such a good job of it that it reads like first. There's not a single emotion in that book you go through without Conor. But Patrick wrote book one of Chaos Walking, The Knife Of Never Letting Go, in such a way that I'd guess it was a different author if it wasn't equally as compelling. It's first person, and Todd, the protagonist, is uneducated and simple, something you pick up from the first sentence just by the way he 'sounds.' And where Conor 'spoke' in short, sharp paragraphs, Todd tends to ramble (in the best way; I have yet to skim) and go light on the punctuation.

So what? Well, once upon a time (okay, like, maybelastyear) I went Googling for 'voice.' I wanted to know 1) what it was, exactly and 2) how I could improve mine. I found plenty of blogs commending good voice or saying all voices sounded different or what have you, but no one ever said, "This is how you do it." I decided when I found out, I'd write about it and The Mystery Would Be SOLVED for generations of new authors to come (assuming, of course, they randomly ended up at my little blog).

Except that's not going to happen.

Because now that I know what voice is, I can't really tell you how to write it :)

The more I read, the more I've realized voice isn't something you can ever describe, just like you can't say exactly why a certain singer sounds so much better than the others. Good voice simple is. It reads easy, it sounds natural, it compels you to keep going. There's no step-by-step guide; I think it's partially something you're born with, and partially something you develop by reading authors like Patrick Ness and writing, writing, writing.

Who are your favorite voices? Why?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hacking, Pressure Points, and Dissociative Identity Disorder

Someday my internet history is going to get me in trouble. For Random Side Project, I've Googled how you'd go about joining the hacker group Anonymous, what the most valuable personal information on the 'net is, and how to steal and resell it. I've researched Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and what characterizes it. For The Novel, I've watched countless YouTube videos on pressure points, how to KO someone in one hit, and the proper way to wield a sword. It's a lot of fun. But you might see how that could raise some eyebrows.

Writing, I've discovered, takes a lot of research. Anything you haven't actually experienced (and in my case, that's a loooong list) you have to get from somewhere else. Whether that's an emotion, an event, or a personality quirk, I refuse to guess at how something would make someone feel—I want to understand, as much as possible, what I'm writing about.

One of the classes I attended at PPWC 2012 was called Deep, Deeper, Deepest and it was all about channeling emotion in writing. "How do you write about losing someone if you've never experienced it?" someone asked. Our teacher assured us we didn't need to avoid an issue just because we hadn't gone through that exact tragedy (and we wouldn't have many books if that was the rule). "Recall a memory similar to the emotion," she said. "And deepen from there." So perhaps you haven't had an arm hacked off, but you've broken your wrist. Or even, stubbed your toe. Take that, deepen it. "You can also visit support forums and search videos for examples of people who actually have gone through what your character(s) are going through, or something very similar."

I've been fortunate enough to stumble across some fantastic novels with issues similar to my characters'. Personally, these work the best for me. I get to spend a week fully immersed in the issue, and most books cover the whole arc of emotion from tragedy to healing. And I get to study craft. And heck, I love to read.

What's in your internet history that's going to get you in trouble? (And YES, it has to be related to writing...)

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