June 6th to the 12th: “How would you characterize your literary voice? How did you develop it?”

Agents, publishers and readers are always looking for a new and/or fresh voice. How would you characterize your literary voice? How did you develop it?

Anna DeStefano is the best selling author of romantic suspense for Harlequin and Silhouette and contemporary psychic fantasy for Dorchester Publishing. She’s won and finalled in numerous national contests, including twice winning the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award. She teaches craft workshops across the country and blogs regularly about both her writing experience and the fascination with metaphysics and parapsychology that led her to create her psychic-based Legacy Series. For more information, please visit Anna’s blog.

“Literary chameleon” Carole Nelson Douglas is the author of sixty multi-genre novels, currently writing two bestselling series set in a Las Vegas worlds apart: the contemporary Midnight Louie feline PI mysteries and the Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator, urban fantasy action/crime series. The first author to use a woman from the Sherlock Holmes stories, Irene Adler, as a series protagonist, Carole has won thirty-some writing awards, including RT’s Lifetime Achievement Awards for both Mystery and Versatility.

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  1. As a newspaper feature writer/reporter, I always paused before I wrote the “lead” for a story, even on deadline. My hands would hover over the keyboard like a pianist’s as I waited for my mind to conjure the just-right tone for that vital first sentence. I was awaiting each article’s “voice.” During one such moment for a piece about a remarkable alley cat’s survival story, I came up with a first-person feline voice. Since then, Midnight Louie, self-appointed Vegas PI, has had a featured role in 27 award-winning novels and works of short fiction, with more to come.

    The magic voice? It came from my early noir mystery and academic assignment reading. Louie’s voice is partly derived from Damon Runyon’s humane and humorous “Guys and Dolls” stories of Broadway in the Great Depression. It’s also part generic gumshoe, and part contemporary hipster with a smidge of Mrs. Malaprop. Louie is no cat sleuth to mess with: as he says, he “carries more hidden razors than a pimp with a shaving fetish.”

  2. My creative voice found me. It’s just that simple. When you meet me, I’m told you tend to see a funny, happy-go-lucky person who enjoys making the moment lighter for those around me. So, I write light-hearted, uplifting stories, right?

    Not so fast.

    While my love for and literary orginis in writing romance novels means my mainstream literary process still delivers those uplifting endings I myself crave, I make my characters and readers work for the length of my novels to achieve that positive, satisfying ending. And “happy” won’t necessarily be your experience while you race through my psychic thrillers. I want you rooting for my protagonists and anxious to see how the antagonists will be taken down, but I never want you comfortable enough to believe you know for sure what’s going to happen next or how the journey will end.

    Life’s not that way, at least the life that my voice wants to paint. The common theme in all my stories (thriller, psychic fantasy, contemporary romance, and romantic suspense) is going back to deal with the past, so you can conquer the future only you can bring into beaing. And only then if you can fearlessly face your world now, regardless of what’s come before.

    My instinctive voice understands, I think, that that’s not always a happy journey, regardless of how I personally attempt to face each moment of my own life with uncondtional acceptance and a desire to find the light and positive energy that connects us all. That’s a personal choice, you see, that’s grown from the successes and failures that have allowed me to evolve beyond who I once was, into someone I’d much rather be. It’s not a journey everyone’s willing to take. There was a time when I resisted with everything inside me. And there’s a price to be paid for holding back all that potential, for fear of letting go of the things that will never set us free, if we don’t first believe we can be more.

    So, I live for light and write with a much darker voice.

    Interesting paradox, no? Uniquely me. And that’s the only thing we as writers have to give our agents and editors and readers that another author can’t. Our “voices” is whatever it is that is most uniquely us, that no one else could possibly create the same way.

  3. Wow, what a hard question to answer. I’m not even sure how to go about doing such a thing. It’s not something I can say I’ve actively cultivated, and I’m not sure most authors do either. For me, it’s just the way in which I “tell” the story, through the minds of my characters. One could take the same basic character, with the same background, traits, and storyline, and every writer out there would present a different story, told with their own blend of experiences, views of the world, use/understanding of language, and so on.

    So, my voice is just me, as it were, filtered through the characters I’ve created. This filter can obviously change, depending on the kind of story/character I want to write, but the flavor is going to be the same across all stories I write. The cadence, tone, language, etc. is a unique combination, which will change over time, because I change over time. I also realize I’m rambling here because I’m not quite sure how to put this clearly into words. Voice is a difficult concept to get a hold of, and oddly enough, is the biggest factor for me in liking or not liking a story.

  4. Interesting comments!

    I think a big part of a new author’s finding their voice is realizing it’s okay to let your personality come through in your work. When I first began writing, like a lot of other new authors, I worked very hard to sound “writerly.” It wasn’t until I started writing as myself, that my prose really took off.

  5. My voice is very much my character’s voice. I like to get right inside a character’s head and see the world from their point of view – it’s not always pretty and can get quite emotional. I tend to use a lot of internal monologue so the reader is living each moment as it happens.

    When I first started writing, I was very much like Karen described – writing the way I thought I was supposed to write. It wasn’t until I’d had a few short stories published that I had the confidence to experiment and see what worked and what didn’t. I think I’ve done OK. 🙂

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