I spent yesterday evening with Meg Tilly. She’s been a favorite actress of mine ever since I saw her in The Big Chill, and she blew me away in Agnes of God.
She’s got such a natural quality to her and I always believe totally that the person she portrays is real. Well, sadly, she’s given up acting (at least for now) but she’s turned her talent to writing both adult and young adult novels. She was part of a panel of YA writers, with K.C. Dyer and James McCann I went to.
Talk turned to acting and how it relates to writing and Meg talked about the clench you get in your gut when something is authentic, when you are so deep in your character that you become them and know immediately when what they are saying or doing is right. She says it’s the same sensation whether she’s writing or acting. How cool that the same creative instincts are at work.
I also have a painter friend who talks about his ‘voice’ in painting. We talk about voice all the time as writers, but I had never thought of a painter as having a voice, but when I think about it the idea grows on me. Voice is so difficult to describe, but I think we know it when we hear it (or see it!)
Every good writer has a voice that is as unique as her speaking tone. It comes out in how we choose words, structure sentences, our turns of phrase and I think in the way we perceive and record life. A really strong, unique voice is easily recognizable. If someone read you a passage out of context, could you pick out Tim Robbins? Tess Gerritson? Jenny Crusie? Stephen King? Jane Austen?
Alison and I write similar books — we’re both published by Blaze and Brava — and yet our voices are totally different. That’s what I love about writing and writers. I am awed by the way Alison describes raw emotion and she writes fabulous action heroes who are both flawed and yet still sensitive. I’m not good at either of those things. I always go for the light and humorous. It’s part of my voice just as Alison’s choices are part of hers.
Of course, each character within a book also has their own voice, and that’s another circle of hell you navigate when you’re creating a novel. With The One I Want, I cheated a bit. Chloe is a London party girl with the accompanying accent and attitude. I pictured Victoria Beckham aka Posh Spice as I was writing her, while Matthew Tanner was a long, lean Texan with a long, lean, Texan accent. Once I ‘heard’ their voices, their characters really came clear to me.
If you’re a writer interested in advice from a romance author, I’d suggest you write in a way that feels natural to you without worrying too much about ‘the rules’. Those rules and people who spout them tend to get in the way of your natural voice, and trust me when I tell you it’s the greatest thing you’ve got going for you. If you’re an avid reader, try paying attention next time you’re really enjoying a book to the voice telling you this story in this particular way.
Have you read a book or an author recently whose voice really spoke to you?
Alison here. I’ll be doing a giveaway of Nancy’s book THE ONE THAT I WANT tomorrow for review – two copies – one to be reviewed on my blog, one to be reviewed on the winner’s blog – so be sure and check back Friday!
Also, check out Devon’s column today at Access Romance’s Readers Gab where she says:
I’ve been reading a lot of different kinds of romance lately, trying to switch it up, stave off reading boredom. No matter the subgenre, length, or heat level, I’m finding that the disappointing books have one thing in common: the lack of intensity. By this I mean a sense of urgency, that feeling that these two people need to be together.