Monday, July 5, 2010

Help! Voice Needed

Yikes! Forgot to post. Took fourteen year old visiting granddaughter to mall yesterday...Fourth of July. Against my principles...but not hers. "Grandma, it's the ONLY time I have free, and I NEED a dress for..."

Well, it was for an affair she will attend with ME, and after looking at her wardrobe, I agreed.

Get to mall. I'm thinking Macy's and my coupons. She sees Free People. "My favorite shop!" she says. (Never heard of this store, but appropriate for the holiday, I guess.)

In no time we are standing in a tie-died draped boutique amidst artfully displayed racks of filmy rags. She finds a dress that looks like it might make it through one wash and runs to try it on. The salesgirl, decked out in what looks like a creative halloween costume, dashes to a rack and grabs more dresses. I whisper my price range, and she puts them back. Luckily the chosen dress fits and actually looks presentable. I pay and whisk my darling out to find Macy's I hope.

What does this have to do with my writing? Everything. I'm revising my novel about a farm girl the same age as my granddaughter. Actually, it takes place in 1920 and is based on the childhood of her great grandmother. Would my granddaughter read the book as it is now written? I don't think so. What voice must I use to make her want to turn the page? Certainly not the demure voice of my mother, whose memoirs I've turned into the novel. How can I inject anger, frustration, sarcasm, irony on to what are presently pages of quiet desperation?

Am open to suggestions. My price range, please. Any coupons out there?


  1. I think we should make our characters timeless and true. Don't lean too much on language of the day (whatever 'day' that may be) and focus more on action, feelings, experience. Does that make any sense?

    easier said than done, believe me..I know from sorry experience!! good luck :D

  2. That's a tough question. Don't know that I have an answer but your description made me wonder if you've read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Calpurnia is a young farm girl around turn of the century. The author does a really fantastic of bringing her to life. Definitely worth a look!

  3. What stopped me cold in reading your post was the question, "What voice must I use?" And I think the only answer is -- Milly's voice (the MC in Linda's MG).

    I don't think voice is something a writer can go in search of. I think it's something that comes to the writer. And it comes through lots of hard work. Work on character. Work on pacing. Motivation.

    Voice is less about slang and more about heart. Find the heart of your MC and you find your voice.

  4. Great suggestion from Jeff about reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. As I remember it, Calpurnia's feelings were well expressed and not in a modern, frenzied manner.

  5. I'm wondering why you think your granddaughter wouldn't be interested in your character's quiet desperation. She might surprise you! Having said that, coincidentally I just wrote a review of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate on my blog. I just loved the story! Jacqueline Kelly did get us into Callie Vee's head delightfully, and yes there is anger and frustration, as well as quiet desperation. Check it out!

  6. Linda: Do you know what your granddaughter's reading now? Do you know what her favorite books are? If so, give them a read, if you haven't already, and you'll have your answer.

    Has she read any historical fiction? If she has, you're in luck. If not, I agree with Tricia, she just might surprise you and be open to new and quieter voices, like Millie's.

  7. Thank you all for your comments. I'm ordering Calpurnia Tate now. Should have done it long ago.

    Perhaps my complaint is just an excuse for not picking up the red pencil and JUST DOING THE REVISION.

    However, I have been paying close attention to the voice in everything I read; at present am reading THE LIFE OF PI. My granddaughter read it and asked me to read it...I never had! The voice is unwavering and true.

    OK...Back to work. Will keep you informed on my progress...or lack therof.

  8. Is it bad that Free People is one of my favorite brands of clothes? LOL. Loved your post JUST for the mere mention of said fantastic whimsical hippie chic brand name of clothing. And I agree with everyone else-use the voice of your MC. Trust your writing. The rest will come. :)