February 29 – March 6: “Does an author’s voice evolve with each novel?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5Does an author’s voice evolve with each novel or are there consistencies over time? ITW Members John Hegenberger, Ronnie Allen, Dave Edlund, Heather B. Moore, James Grippando, Matthew Betley, Gwen Florio, Marissa Garner, Sanjida Kay, Karenna Colcroft, Peter Steiner, Philip Donlay and Vaughn C. Hardacker will discuss. Feel free to discuss your own work or some of your favorite examples.

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starfallBorn and raised in the heart of the heartland, Columbus, Ohio, John Hegenberger is the author of several series: Stan Wade LAPI in 1959, Eliot Cross Columbus-based PI in 1988, and Ace Hart, western gambler from Wyoming to Arizona in 1877. He’s the father of three, tennis enthusiast, collector of silent films and OTR, hiker, Francophile, B.A. Comparative Lit., Pop culture author, ex-Navy, ex-marketing exec at Exxon, AT&T, and IBM, happily married for 45 years and counting. Active member of SFWA, PWA and ITW.

 

 

bone by boneSanjida Kay is a writer and broadcaster. Bone by Bone is her first thriller. She lives in Bristol with her daughter and her husband. To learn more about Sanjida, please visit her website.

 

 

 

overwatchMatthew Betley is a former Marine officer of ten years. His experience includes deployments to Djibouti, Africa, after 9/11, and Fallujah, Iraq, prior to The Surge. A New Jersey native who considers Cincinnati home, he graduated from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, with a B.A. in Psychology and minors in Political Science and Sociology.

 

 

Dawn Over Dayfield200Karenna Colcroft is the alter ego of a New England wife and mother. She began writing at the age of five, and since 2009 has been published in the romance genre and, under the name Jo Ramsey, in young adult fiction. Dawn Over Dayfield, Karenna’s newest release, is her first attempt at branching into suspense fiction, and she found it so enjoyable she’ll probably do it again.

 

 

ariesRonnie Allen is a New York City native living in central Florida. She taught in the New York City Department of education for 33 years as well as holding licensure as a New York State school psychologist. In addition, she’s a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner specializing in alternative healing modalities. She uses her skills and education in the themes and plots of her psychological thrillers, Gemini and Aries.

 

 

HuntedMarissa Garner is a wife, writer, chocoholic, and animal lover, not necessarily in that order. As a child, she cut pictures of people out of magazines and turned them into characters in her simple stories. Now she writes edgy romantic thrillers and steamy contemporary romance. Her stories will titillate your mind as well as your libido. She lives in Southern California, but enjoys traveling from Athens to Anchorage to Acapulco and many locations in between.

 

BLACK ORCHID PosterVaughn C. Hardacker has completed five novels and numerous short stories. His novel, SNIPER, was selected as a finalist in the Crime Fiction category of the 2015 Maine Literary Awards. His third, THE BLACK ORCHID, was released on March 1, 2016. He is a veteran of the U. S. Marines and served in Vietnam. He holds degrees from Northern Maine Technical College, the University of Maine and Southern New Hampshire University. He lives in Maine.

 

RS cover web resA devoted fan of thrillers, Dave Edlund writes what he describes as science-action thrillers, blending cutting-edge science and engineering with present-day geopolitics. His debut novel Crossing Savage received a Ben Franklin Silver Medal (popular fiction) by the Independent Book Publishers Association, and was named an INDIEFAB finalist by Foreward Reviews Magazine (best new mystery/suspense). Relentless Savage was named by Apple iBooks as a 2015 best-pick for new mystery and suspense novels. Deadly Savage is scheduled for release in April.

 

Lost King by H.B. MooreHeather B. Moore is a USA Today bestselling author of more than a dozen historical novels and thrillers, written under pen name H.B. Moore. She writes women’s fiction, romance and inspirational non-fiction under Heather B. Moore. This can all be confusing, so her kids just call her Mom. Heather attended Cairo American College in Egypt, the Anglican School of Jerusalem in Israel, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University in Utah.

 

 

Gone AgainJames Grippando is a New York Times bestselling author of suspense. GONE AGAIN is his twenty-fourth novel. Grippando was a trial lawyer for twelve years before the publication of his debut novel in 1994, The Pardon, and he now serves as counsel at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP. He lives in South Florida with his wife and children.

 

 

disgracedGwen Florio’s first novel, MONTANA, won the inaugural Pinckley Prize for debut novel, and a High Plains Book Award, and was a finalist for an International Thriller Award, Shamus Award and Silver Falchion Award. Her second in the Lola Wicks series, DAKOTA, was a finalist for a Silver Falchion award. A veteran journalist, Florio’s work was nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize. She is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and Women Writing the West. She live in Missoula, Montana.

 

pegasus downPhilip Donlay learned to fly at age seventeen and was first published at eighteen. In the aviation world, success came quickly and he’s been flying jets since he was twenty years old. Whether flying a Saudi sheik, nighttime freight, or executives of a Fortune 500 company, Donlay has logged over six million miles while spanning the globe to forty countries on five continents. Donlay burst onto the literary scene in 2004 with the publication of his first novel, Category Five, followed by Code Black, Zero Separation, Deadly Echoes, Aftershock and Pegasus Down. He divides his time between Montana and the Pacific Northwest.

 

capitalistPeter Steiner is a Cincinnati native.  He did a stint in the Army, followed by graduate school.  He then got a PhD. and taught German at Dickinson College.  He left teaching to become an artist, painting and drawing cartoons.  In 1979 he began selling cartoons to The New Yorker. For the next 25 years he made his living mainly as a cartoonist, but also as a painter.  In the 1990s he started writing novels.  Although the first one went unpublished, the second one—A French Country Murder–was published by Saint Martin’s Press in 2003.  Since then other books followed. THE CAPITALIST is his fifth novel.

 

 

 

 

 

47 Comments
  1. I think we have a style, or a voice, that is unique to us, just as our own voice or appearance is unique. However, in the case of an author, I think we do or should try and change that voice to suit the story we’re writing. For example, although we have a recognisable speaking voice, we alter it depending on who we’re speaking to and what the context is. How you might talk to your mate in the pub is different to the way you’d speak if you were reading from your book at a launch party!
    Margaret Atwood is a good example of someone who has a clear authorial voice but who shifts her tone. I might be able to tell I was reading her work and not another writer’s if you gave me a paragraph at random. But her voice has changed over time and flexes depending on what she’s writing. I particularly like the MaddAdam trilogy because, even though the subject is dire and apocalyptic, she’s developed a lightness of touch and a use of irony that makes it bearable – and is a contrast to her more serious tone in earlier works like The Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Eye.
    In my own case, I wrote literary fiction. I altered my style for my last two novels (The Naked Name of Love and Sugar Island published under the name Sanjida O’Connell) as they’re historical – both are set in 1859. With my thriller, Bone by Bone, published by Corvus Books on 3 March, I’ve changed my style to suit the genre. My writing has become sparer, terser, tighter. There are fewer descriptions – but I think it’s still recognisably mine! I’m probably still more descriptive and have more nature in my thrillers than the average writer! What do you think?

      1. Me too! There’s precious few novelists who are able (allowed by publishers) to straddle genres in the way that she does. Obviously, she’s a pretty brilliant writer too!

  2. Based on my own experience, I believe an author’s voice evolves, just as her writing skills improve, with each novel. Evolution, however, doesn’t mean reincarnation. The voice doesn’t undergo a complete transformation each time so many consistencies remain. I think the roots are still grounded in the writer’s natural voice. In my short writing career, I’ve also discovered that an author may want to intentionally change her voice. I suspect this is most common and most useful in cross-genre writers.

    My first unpublished manuscripts were romantic thrillers, written in a dark, edgy voice. But when I started a steamy, contemporary romance (THE MARRIAGE TRAP), my writing morphed into a lighter, snarkier tone. The change was almost subconscious, organic you might say, because the story itself couldn’t be told properly in my original voice. Once I recognized what was happening, I ran with it. The book was published as the first in the Hawaiian Heat series, and I’m sure my voice will remain very similar in future stories.

    Now I’m writing the FBI Heat romantic thriller series, and my voice has reverted to something like my original one. HUNTED, the first book, had an adequate corpse count, but the plot was more action than suspense, so I created a new variation that wasn’t quite as dark. I’m now writing the third in the series, and I’m relieved to say that the same voice has worked well throughout.

    Does this raise the question: How many voices can an author have?

  3. This question really caused me to think about how my own author voice might evolve over time with each novel published. I agree that an author’s skill as a writer does evolve—mostly for the better. But voice is a little harder to analyze. I’ve heard lectures that essentially say, “You can either write voice or you can’t.” I disagree with that statement since everyone has a voice—it’s just a matter of developing it. For me, my author voice is closely tied with the type of character, the genre, and the point of view the book is written in. The main character in my most recent thriller LOST KING is adventurous, daring, and won’t let anything stand in his way. When I’m writing in his POV, I try to keep his voice consistent with the previous books in the series. That can be a challenge. Yet, if I were to analyze my different novels in the broader scope, I’d say that the voice remains fairly consistent. I love to find an author I enjoy and then read several of their books, depending on that voice that I enjoyed in the first place to also be in the next books. I’m looking forward to hearing everyone else’s answers!

  4. I’m going to hedge my bet and answer Yes and No.
    Yes, a writer cannot help be evolve over time and also continue to fiddle with the story elements, so the result usually is something different, if not better. For example, a walk-on character in one book can become the major focus of another book. But we’re talking about voice here, so I think that as writers grow over time, so do their vocabulary, phraseology, and voice. Practice makes perfect, eh?
    No, for purely marketing purposes, an author’s voice stays the same, so that the readers “get what they pay for.” Occasionally, a writer will experiment and even give out with a totally different genre in a new voice under a phony name…. But we all know why we’re here and we usually dance with the guy who brought us. This doesn’t not take into account authors with split personalities. Those guys not only change voices, but they hear them too, and often speak in tongues.

  5. Does an author’s voice evolve with each novel or are there consistencies over time? In many cases, I’d say the answer is yes, evolution does occur. This is evident when an author is new to a genre. Examples include the early works of Clive Cussler, James Rollins, and Matthew Reilly—three of my favorite thriller authors. Another opportunity to see the evolution in the author’s voice is when she/he is writing multiple novels around a common cast of characters. Over the course of multiple plots, we get to know the main characters better and better, and this may be simultaneous to evolution in the author’s voice. Each time I write a new Peter Savage novel, I want to reveal more about the protagonist and his close associates. It’s akin to an evolving friendship between the reader and the principle characters. And like a friendship, the voice I employ changes with each new story—hopefully bringing the reader into a more intimate relationship with the characters.

  6. For me, the author’s voice doesn’t change with each novel. It changes with each character. The voice, tone, an author creates varies depending upon the personality, career, education level, environment, and where the character is in society. A character with a doctorate would not have the same language as a drug dealer or gang member. I write tough NYC characters. In Aries, my new release that came out in Jan. I have characters that are on a higher educational level and gang members. My gang members, weapons dealers, hit men, all use slang and curse words, the F bomb, frequently. My more educated characters do not. My excitable heroine in Aries comes across as immature at times, a deliberate personality trait for her that I wanted, but she’s anything but. The reader, though, knows that it’s Samantha Wright who’s speaking.

    I like to create the dialog so that the reader can tell who’s speaking without writing ‘he said,’ she said.’ Even in narrative, I like to keep the voice of the character whose POV the chapter is in.

    If I write with my voice, to me it appears to be what we call author intrusion. A different voice in a narrative takes the reader out of the story and is jarring.

    What helps in keeping the tone of the characters consistent is to write in deep POV, so there’s no mistaking who owns the chapter.

  7. To my mind the writer’s voice is a huge part of a book, including sentence style, punctuation, organization—in short, almost everything but the story itself. So, yes, an author’s voice evolves over time. How could it not? And, yes, there are consistencies over time. How could there not be? Every writer starts out with a self-conscious awareness of how he is writing. With time and experience, your writing becomes smoother, more self assured, easier. You think of it less, and your voice becomes more your own and less an amalgam of the voices of other writers whose work you have admired or envied and imitated. Your voice emerges as the influence of others falls away. It becomes more and more present, though it has been there all along.

  8. This response is to Marissa. For some reason I don’t have a reply button under each comment. Re how many voices an author can have. I say it’s unlimited, depending upon what the novel requires. I write dark. Psychopathic female killers. That makes the tone in my novels dark. It’s not my voice or emotional state in real life. Otherwise, my friend’s would run. I’m writing Scorpio, the third novel in my series and I plan to finish it and submit it by August. After writing dark characters for three books, though not all the characters are dark, I might take a break and create something lighter. I understand you in changing your genres to change voice.

    1. Agreed. Writing in a character’s POV is a bit like being an actor and taking on a role. We aren’t that person in real life, but must find the voice of that character in order to tell the story.

    2. I think I would differentiate between an author’s voice and the characters’ voices. Each character should have his/her own distinct voice that comes through in the dialogue. I love being able to identify the character who’s speaking just by the manner of speech and without a cumbersome dialogue tag. So we certainly take on many, many voices in making our characters talk. But I don’t find that my author’s voice, which is communicated in the narrative, changes with each POV. My author’s voice seems determined more by genre.

      1. Couldn’t agree more, Marissa. The author’s voice is largely communicated in the narrative and shouldn’t be conflated with the character voices. As someone else said, it has a lot to do with imagery, vocabulary and choices in grammar. It is much the same as the concept of idiolect in linguistics — the particular way each individual uses language to express himself.

  9. I believe that with each novel, as well as within each one, I write my voice does evolve. Some of this is due to familiarity with various characters. In my Houston/Bouchard series I have several recurring characters and I find that my voice differs based upon each character’s role and personality. Mike Houston is a former Marine sniper and detective with the Boston PD. When writing from Mike’s POV I find my voice to be more martial in nature. Mike is also a product of South Boston’s mean streets and that cynical tough-guy attitude comes out.

    Anne Bouchard is a real challenge for me. She is the product of an upper middle-class family and has chosen a career in a male dominated occupation. I do my best to use a more sophisticated voice than I do with the male characters. I strive to present her as a competent woman who dislikes being patronized and can compete with her male counterparts without compromising her status as a woman.

    Jimmy O’Leary (AKA Jimmy O)is pure Southie. A tough Irish kid who sees life vastly different than his childhood friend, Mike Houston. Where Mike will fall back on the self-discipline of his role as Marine and member of the para-military police force; Jimmy O has none of these constraints. Jimmy is possibly the hardest and easiest voice for me. He’s a mobster, but one with morals. He views himself as the court of last resort for the blue collar people of the neighborhood. He resolves issues that the police cannot or will not resolve. Jimmy makes up his own rules as he goes along (that makes him easy for me to write). On the other hand, he’s a true diamond in the rough. The two things he hates the most are pedophiles and drug dealers. He will listen to anyone from the neighborhood who asks for help. He keeps a rough, unpolished exterior while deep inside his heart and soul are breaking (that’s the hard part). In SNIPER, the first novel, a woman asks him to find the gang-bangers who raped and killed her adolescent daughter. Jimmy locates those responsible. When the distraught mother comes along and asks to be allowed to strike the first blow, Jimmy hands her a knife, hoping it will give her closure. Jimmy is my “how would you like to handle this?” character. In the second novel, THE FISHERMAN, I concentrate more on Jimmy’s softer side and altered the voice accordingly.

    I rely on my readers to tell me when I get it right. Whenb a friend of mine who grew up in Dorchester and South Boston emailed me saying “I grew up with this guy!” I knew that in that novel I got Jimmy right.

  10. I was drawn to this topic as it’s something I’ve never really thought about in all my years of writing. I can’t ever remember contemplating and then deciding what voice I was going to use. It’s mine, it was just there waiting. I believe an author’s voice is like a fingerprint–unique, shaped by life experience and molded by the passage of time. As I work on the eighth Donovan Nash thriller, a series that began in my head nearly sixteen years ago, I feel it’s essential to maintain the same voice I used in the beginning, as it’s what my readers expect. A writer’s voice never stops being a tool to identify who wrote the words. I think of some of my own favorite voices: Wilbur Smith, William Kent Krueger, or Richard Bach. They each have a distinctive voice, and as a reader, I smile when I settle into one of their books with their familiar cadence. Characters can and do evolve, storylines change and develop, but the voice remains constant, which is essential, as it is the author’s voice that keeps the reader coming back.

  11. I’ve been writing in one way or another most of my life; I wrote my first story when I was five. (It was about a girl named Maria who went to live with her uncle.) So I would say from the time I started writing until now, my voice and skills have definitely evolved!

    Counting only the writing I’ve done in my adult life, particularly since I started being published in 2009, I have made some changes and evolution. When I read the short story that was my first published “book,” I cringe at the two-dimensional narrative, the lack of emotional response from the point-of-view character, and the lack of description of physical responses from either character. I’ve vastly improved in those areas since then.

    At the same time, though, some things that make “Karenna Colcroft” (and “Jo Ramsey,” my young adult fiction pen name) stories clearly mine haven’t changed at all, even from the stories I wrote in high school. Those things are what I would truly call my authorial voice. There are certain phrasings and verbal quirks that invariably show up in narrative. I am completely incapable of writing something that doesn’t have random bits of slightly off-beat humor, and I gear strongly toward characters with a strong wiseass streak.

    In Dawn Over Dayfield, even though Andy and Weston are solving murders that date back over a century and face threats against their own lives from those who want to keep secrets buried, those elements are present, including the off-beat humor and wiseass streaks. Even though Dawn Over Dayfield is my first mystery/suspense novel, those who have read “Karenna Colcroft’s” romances will have no question that Dawn Over Dayfield is by the same author. But if anyone read a story I wrote as a teen, or even one of Karenna’s earlier stories or one of the never-to-be-published young adult stories I wrote a decade ago, they might wonder, because while some of the unique traits that make stories mine are present, some aren’t.

    So long answer to short question, I would have to say yes, in many cases the voice evolves to some extent. An author’s skill level changes over time. Some of the phrasing they use might change. They might entirely change genres. None of those are actually part of the voice, though. To me, voice is what makes stories uniquely and obviously from that author, and that comes from who the author is as a person–but that is something that can change over time.

  12. I agree with Heather, John and Ronnie that character has a huge impact on voice too. You need to flex your authorial voice to get across nuances in the character’s personality and their dialogue, as well as interior monologue, particularly if you’re writing in the first person or the third person closely tied to your character’s perspective.

    In my thriller, Bone by Bone, about a third of the story is narrated by a 9 year old girl. So I needed to alter my voice to become her, but at the same time, I didn’t want to completely imitate a 9 year old girl because that could be quite hard to read!

      1. Hmm. Trying to understand this. True, fiction is to be differentiated from non-fiction. But I don’t know what 100% realistic would be (wrt fiction). Especially in thrillers, many authors cut corners and write erroneously about ______ (fill in the blank). I think that’s a mistake.

  13. Hi Sanjida, exactly, I agree on flexing your voice. When I’m deep in my psychopathic characters heads, I get the anger, the passion, the rambling, which is different than my daily speech. But I also have children in my books. In Gemini, I have a five year old boy who steals everyone’s hearts and he’s been through more horrors and abuse than any child should know. His speech is run on sentences, fragment sentences, dropping the final g or any final letter. I taught in NYC for 33 years so I know how little ones frame sentences. Sometimes in editing there were issues, keeping to remember to drop that last consonant. He’s not the main character so it was readable. In Aries, I also have a seven year old boy who’s the son of the forensic psychiatrist who’s a widower. In both books, the boys have one liners that make the reader stop and think. In Aries, what little Frankie says to his dad becomes a major plot point. All voices are so important in a novel.

    Another way to look at author voice, which I hadn’t considered in my initial post is readability level of the novel. I’m always looking at the scale in MS word when I’m doing spell check. I strive for a higher level. John Verdon’s first book, ‘Think of a Number,’ has a very high readability level by his vocabulary. I love his work. His voice is more sophisticated even in narrative. While James Patterson has a lower readability. You can actually Google author’s readability levels. The levels also determine the ease or quickness of a read. That to me is major in author voice when we think of whom we want to reach in our audience.

    1. Wow, Heather, that sounds amazing. It must be hard to capture a child’s voice and thoughts like that, but such an interesting challenge.

      Thank you for bringing readability to my attention – we all know what we mean about an author being quick to read, but I never realised there was a way to measure it!

  14. Two things come to mind when I think of my own “voice” as an author.
    1. I’ve written 24 novels. 12 are in the Jack Swyteck series, and 12 are stand alones. I think writing outside the series has had the greater impact on the evolution of my voice as a writer. Partly taht’s because many of my stand alones are not legal thrillers, and in a few the lead character is a woman.

    2. Humor is an interesting way to measure the evolution of a voice. It was something I think I was afraid to try in my earliest works. What’s “funny” comes more naturally to me now

  15. I’m going to chime in with those who say the author’s voice evolves along with a character. I didn’t set out to write a series, but that’s what it’s turned into, giving me the challenge of having my protagonist evolve along with my own writing.

    That writing is pretty tentative and flat when I’m trying to figure someone out. Once I’ve got the character nailed, the voice gains more assurance. I’m still pretty new to this—just starting Book 5—and struggled so in those first books to nail structure that voice seemed a bit of an afterthought. Now, even in the rotten first draft the writing feels stronger. All of my books are set in the American West, and place is key to each. My own voice, such as it is, combines detailed description with a taut plot. The trick is to balance the two, so that the description doesn’t slow down the narrative, but also so that the latter doesn’t give short shrift to the former.

    Overall, though, my voice remains inextricably tied to character. My protagonist, Lola Wicks, is an irascible reporter, very much a lone wolf, so insistent upon her independence that she refuses to marry the man in her life. I’ve dealt with her need for growth and change by giving her a daughter as stubborn and single-minded as she. Making her little girl more than a prop requires me to dig deeper, and also to make Lola more vulnerable without turning her into a gooey marshmallow of a character. With luck, Lola and I will continue to grow together.

    1. I love the way you say you are new to this, Gwen, when you are on your fifth book!!

      Do you think that the characters you create (and thus their voice) are also linked to your authorial voice? They might be totally different from you, but they still come from someplace inside your head.

      1. I’d like to say no, Sanjida, but I have to admit that my protagonist’s voice is a sassier version of my own. I like to call her my id, in that she comes up with the smart-ass replies and put-downs that never occur to me when I’m on the spot.

        I do think my narrative voice is getting stronger and more sure-footed as I figure out this novel thing. Even though I’m on Book 5, panic still strikes routinely. The only difference is, now I know that I’ll write through it.

  16. This is in response to Heather. Sorry, I don’t have a reply button on my mobile and on my laptop my response wouldnt take. I had difficulty with the aspect you mentioned. Being realistic but not 100% real. I had been published in non fiction prior to my novel writing. I constantly re read to make sure it sounds like fiction and not a text book. Dialog always came easy to me from my screenwriting days before my non fiction journey. As authors we do put a lot of ourselves into our books. In psychological thrillers which I write, readers want and expect to see the dark side of people’s emotionalism. I write female killers. The tone of my books are dark but not morbid. I don’t think they are a heavy read. To avoid the heaviness I try to keep the pacing fast so the reader keeps turning pages. But there are real life events in my novels but they pertain to me.

  17. I remember an agent telling me that she thought an author either had a voice or didn’t. She didn’t think it was something that could be learned; it was more like a “natural” talent. She happened to like really strong voices; but she warned me that the stronger the voice, the more likely it was that readers would love it or hate it, no middle ground. I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to draw such a strong emotion (either way) from a reader. But maybe that’s just me…

  18. We each seem to have different ideas of what voice is, or rather are using the word to stand for different and often multiple things. If you listen to a piece of music by Mozart, you can recognize it as his after a few bars. You can tell a Van Gogh painting at once. What allows us to identify an artist from his work is his voice, a kind of embedded signature.

    1. This is a good analogy. Like any form of art–writing, music, painting, acting, film–what the viewer/listener/reader identifies with is likely to vary enormously. We recognize Mozart and Va Gogh because those works are familiar. However, we can recognize the differences between artists without ever having prior exposure to their work.

      The trick, I think, is for authors to find a voice–a rhythm and tone and personality–to their stories that resonates with readers. After all, authors and other types of artists, are in the business of entertaining.

  19. For me, this is a pretty clear-cut topic – as a former Marine officer, I wrote Overwatch because I wanted to write something I would want to read. And since I went with the old adage of “write what you know,” I created a protagonist who has a similar background that I did and dealt with some of the same personal challenges (i.e. alcoholism). I also had to strive for authenticity, creating dialogue that represents the sarcasm and brotherhood that co-exist in the Marine Corps. To be blunt – Overwatch is who I am to a “T,” minus all of the killing and saving the world. (That’s much harder at 44. :)) I don’t really know what that says about my “voice,” but I do know that more than anything, I want the reader to be wildly entertained and pulled into my alternate universe. As for the progression from book to book, I knew where I wanted First Shot (March 2017) to go, and I wrote it, making it more intense, emotional, and action-packed. Ultimately, it will be the readers that decide if I’ve succeeded, as its their voice that matters most.

  20. Hi Sanjida, I became aware of readability level early on. Actually it originated in college when an English professor made fun of me in front of the class, so it’s going back over 46 years. Since then I have always strived to write my ms, whether non-fiction or fiction at a higher readability levels. If you looks at various genres, there seems to be a standard. Most novels are written in an 8-10th grade reading level, with thrillers being at the higher end, and into college. They’re also longer in word count than say, pure romance novels. I believe the author’s voice is a combination of vocabulary, sentence structure–shorter vs longer sentences, which I prefer, though I do write sentence fragments for effect.

    I’ve heard agents and editors reject manuscripts if they don’t like the author’s voice. Or, I’ve even heard, ‘the author doesn’t have a voice.’ The latter seems to me to be difficult to pinpoint and correct.

    1. I’ve heard the same thing from agents/editors. I’ve also heard them say that they can “fix” a plot, characterization, grammar, dialogue, etc., but they can’t “fix” a voice. Interesting…

    2. To me the idea that someone doesn’t have a voice doesn’t make much sense. Everyone has a voice. Whether they’ve found it or not is another question. I just came across an interesting line from Yeats that, to me at least, gets at the essence of voice. “How hard is that purification from insincerity, vanity, malignity, arrogance, which is the discovery of style.” In other words we find our voice by shedding artifice and insincerity and writing with as pure a soul as we can manage. That sounds lofty and ultimately unachievable, but it seems worth shooting for.

  21. Sanjida, I was remiss in saying ‘thank you.’ Writing children has come easy for me since I’ve been with the little ones so long. And it’s often said that Kg teachers talk to everyone as if they’re five. So voice changes depending upon our environment, too. A tough gang guy, who’s been arrested and facing jail time may mellow his tone when he’s brought before the judge. Changing voice can be consciously done. For example, I try harder to suppress my New York accent when I’m in a professional environment so I slow down my speech and concentrate on letter pronunciation. I did that in a recent podcast I was a guest on, talking about how to get over hurdles and rejection to complete your manuscript. In listening to the podcast, I think I spoke too slowly but my New Yorkness still came through.

    So author’s voice in a novel can change but it would still be recognizable. However, this is something we didn’t talk about yet, authors who co author. Then the co author’s voice takes over and destroys the primary author’s voice. Many times I don’t like that. What about you?

    Marissa, about fixing voice, that might come as an outgrowth of personality. You can’t change a person’s personality. At least, I don’t think so. Anyone?

  22. Hi Matthew, I just read your post more carefully saying that Overwatch is you to a T, minus the killing. I feel pretty similarly about Aries where some of the trauma I went through as a person with severe asthma, is covered. Again, minus the killing and some of the horrendous things this character goes through. I applaud you for allowing these traumas to come out on paper bc going into deep emotion also affects author’s voice. And I believe readers relate to us more.

  23. Hi Peter. Maybe I should have said it better when talking about the ‘author not having a voice.’ Maybe it’s a bland voice that’s non descript, dull, not engaging, or something that wouldn’t grab a reader, without personality.

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