Talking Voice #amwriting #BookReview

I’m reading (as who isn’t) The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. When I started reading it, I was like, “OMG, this is brill!” After a bunch of chapters, I was like, “I’m not reading any more of this.” But I’m still reading.

It’s all about voice.

Here’s a snippet of what I said back in 2011, in a post about voice/tone:

Do you ever flip through cable channels, catch three seconds of something, and say, “Oh, that’s M*A*S*H,” or, “That’s DRAGNET,” or “That’s TWILIGHT ZONE”. Well, just as you can spot a M*A*S*H or a DRAGNET or a TWILIGHT ZONE in three seconds, you know a scary book when you read it. You know a tough-guy book. You know a light-hearted comedy. You know it by the tone.

VoiceNo matter how unpleasant or how silly the story you choose to write, you must do these two things: Take your voice seriously, and use it honestly.

Click here for PDFs of examples: Hammett and Bradbury and two vampire scenes.

In a first-person narrative, your narrative voice is the sound of the character telling the story, right? Well, The Invention of Wings is told in alternate chapters by an enslaved woman and the Charleston, South Carolina girl to whom she was given as a gift.

To begin with, the voices were highly distinct and highly distinctive. Before long, the tones began to even out, which was off-puttingly disappointing. They never became indistinguishable, though, and, because of the book’s many strengths, and because the “owner,” Sara Grimké, was a historical figure, I’m reading it with pleasure.

Just not as much pleasure as that with which I began. I am no longer an intimate part in Handful’s story, even though I care what happens to her and am supposedly in her life during her chapters. Kidd puts me in Handful’s action and mind, but no longer in her skin and viscera. I can recommend the book, but not on the basis of strong and consistent narrative voice. Alas.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write a scene from the points of view of two very different people. Write backgrounds for them first, if you need to. Make them sound different.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Talking Voice #amwriting #BookReview

  1. Jane

    August 17, 2015 at 10:46am

    Oh My YES!

    My friend Andy’s books were always Andy talking. But he kept many fans for his whole career. And he was rightfully proud of it.

    Anyway, here’s a disappointment: Harry Dresden. When Jim Butcher wrote a novella from Harry’s vampire brother’s POV, I was almost giddy. Then I read it. The voice sounded exactly as if Harry were telling the tale, not what’s his name. Jeez. What was the point?

    Great examples for your post, MA.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 17, 2015 at 12:42pm

      That IS disappointing. 🙁 Bob Aspirin’s books always started out with distinct voices that all blurred together sooner or later. Even if he gave them verbal ticks to differentiate them, WHAT they said always began to sound like Voice Of The Author. Late Terry Pratchett tended that way, too, alas.

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      • Jane

        August 18, 2015 at 10:13am

        Yeah, and watch out also for any of those series that have almost identical sexy friends of the hero, because THEY will be getting their own identical books wherein they find the identical hot sexy loves of their lives, too. And they will almost always be so much like the original romance that, well, you could write the books yourself!

        Hint: You can tell them apart by their hair color. ;D

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        • Author

          Marian Allen

          August 18, 2015 at 12:36pm

          This is a fractal function of which I was unaware. Thanks for the warning.

          Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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