Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Voice- Clear, Crystal, Distinct in the Din

Photo Courtesy

With so many books on the market, how can you make your story stand out? What makes your story distinct, special, the one readers will want to come back and read again?

What can cause readers to want to read more of your works?

Far above the need for an interesting plot and good characters is: you

Your voice is crucial and among the most important qualities to hone, because once you've perfected your voice, readers who have enjoyed your previous stories will pick up a second book penned by you, disregard the title, and delve into the pages. 

It's true!

For this reason, your story must be the real you in terms of voice. You can not be an imitator of other authors. You can learn from them, take a component and make it your own, but you can not be an imitator.

Allow me to entertain you with this example:

Max Lucado's book, The Song of the King, is a story about three knights who compete to marry the princess. To win, each knight must venture into the dreaded Hemlock Forest, face any foe along the way, and exit the woods using the path leading to the palace. The first knight who reaches the palace wins the right to marry the princess.

To help guide the knights on their journey, the king promises to play a distinct song on a flute. By listening for the king's song, the knights will know the correct path to travel. Each knight is also given one helper of their choice for the journey.

After many days, only one knight emerges from Hemlock Forest and stumbles to the palace grounds. Barely able to speak, he is given food and drink, proclaimed the winner, and granted the right to marry the princess.

When asked about his journey, the wise knight said he and the other two knights entered the forest and immediately heard the king's song. But as quick as his music sounded, other flutes played from behind every tree. The fastest knight didn't know where to run. The smartest knight couldn't understand which sound to follow. Even the knight who came out of the woods first admitted he had been confused as to which sound to follow. 

The wise knight, though, had asked the king's son to be his helper/guide, knowing the son could also play his father's song. The knight listened to the son's tune and quickly learned the difference between the king's music and the imitator's attempts. Thus he followed the correct sound.

While this story clearly teaches a spiritual truth, we can also use the same truth in our writing. 

God has give us our voice. He has given us our story idea. As we learn the writing craft, He provides good examples of writers for us to learn from. 

But there comes a point when we must separate from other authors, listen to what God has put in our heart, and pen those words.

When I taught third grade, my students wrote stories that imitated movies or events from their lives. The boys and girls filled their pages with basic sentences filled the page. They learned to move the story from beginning to middle to end but their words lacked a voice.

However, when I asked the children to tell me a story, their faces brightened, their bodies moved to illustrate their words, their voices rose and fell adding dynamics. Their whole personality was engaged in relating the event. This version of their story had life, it was vibrant, compelling, easy to be engaged in. This was the young author's voice.

Following the rules by writing a good plot, characters, setting, theme, etc in the story is not good enough...the manuscript MUST also have you.  

There once was a group of authors who chose to conduct an experiment. A single plot line was given and each writer had to write a story centered on that idea. When the stories were read at the next meeting, the writers were amazed at not only the broad range of stories, but also the distinct, identifiable voice found in each manuscript.

Let's give it a try. 

Using your life experiences, preferences, tastes, etc., compose a very short story using these ingredients:

Short man
city park
female marathon runner

Don't take long to think about it....don't bother editing. Simply throw the ingredients in your mind's pot, stir then pour it out in the comment section.

Let your voice be heard:)


This blog post is by Mary Vee

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Unknown said...

I'm on the run, so I can't do the exercise at the end of your post, but just wanted to give the whole thing a thumbs-up. Voice, for me, is one of the things I either love most or, well, don't love most in a story. There are tons of wonderful plots and characters out there, but what keeps a book at the forefront of my mind, and what makes me most likely to recommend it to someone else above other books, is when the voice connects with me. I love a good author voice! :)

Angela said...

Thanks Mary for this post. I plan to try your exercise. I love doing exercises such as this to get the creative juices flowing.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Your comment brought to mind a particular quality in of one author that I enjoy reading. She sneaks in these snarky fresh phrases. The phrases are sprinkled throughout the book in just the right places. Not too much, not too little.
Yep. that is what I would want to be known for. I'd like my voice to pop into someone's mind and have them say, I'd like to read another Mary Vee book.

Mary Vee Writer said...

I can't wait to come back and see what you wrote for this exercise.
How exciting!

Ashley Clark said...

Mary, what a great post! I loved what you said about the story of the knights and the king's song,.. Really puts voice into perspective!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks, Ash :)