Note: Remember the post a while back on Voice Finding Techniques, based on Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel by Cathy Yardley? We have a special treat today -- a guest post on voice, from Cathy herself! Cathy writes women's fiction in several genres. You can find out more about her at her website.
Livia was nice enough to post about some “voice-finding” exercises I had written in my book Will Write for Shoes. Reading the comments, someone had written that her voice changes when she writes different things. I suggested that even authors who write for different genres have a recognizable voice, or voice element, that serves as a through-line for all their work.
I mentioned it on an author’s loop, and we got into a spirited discussion of whether or not you can have “character authors” the way you have character actors – people who are noted for brilliant work, but who are also able to defy pigeon-holing by working in vastly different areas. There are very few authors who work across different genres with any degree of success. We attributed that to the readerships: genre readers tend to like seeing one kind of book from authors, and are unhappy when they shell out eight to twenty-nine dollars for a book that then isn’t at all what they were expecting. It’s not a matter of whether the author has the talent to branch out – it’s whether readers will accept a voice change.
Of the authors who could straddle different genres, the one I focused on was Margaret Atwood. She can write touching, startling women’s fiction, then smack you with a dystopian sci-fi with equal skill. But I also think that she has a very strong “voice” through all her work. It’s a little removed, almost aloof, which only underlines the usually brutal things going on. She’s got great descriptions and a clinically lyrical voice, is the only way I can describe it. Sort of a cold poetry. I love her work, although I can only read it in measured doses.
I’ve written within the women’s fiction genre: romance, Chick Lit, erotica, some YA. I’ve always dealt with stories that showcase women’s journeys. My voice tends to be humorous; Will Write for Shoes is probably the closest to my speaking voice. I also know that the humorous aspect has influenced my writing choices. Chick Lit and humor? Big yes. Slapstick erotica? Not so much, at least not according to my editor.
After speaking with my editor, I wrote darker, more intense stories. I’d like to think I was successful, but I also know it wasn’t as comfortable a fit. That doesn’t mean I’m trapped writing light and fluffy stories. It does mean that I’ll stuff banter into any situation possible; that if I don’t lighten my stories with some kind of humor it winds up as angsty as a teenager’s diary; and that I need to take my writing (and my life) a lot less seriously as a general rule.
How about you? How would you describe your writing voice? What’s your through-line?