Finding My Voice
I embarked on the quest to find my own author voice thinking that it would be easy. How wrong I was! For a start, I didn’t quite ‘get’ what was meant by ‘author voice’. I figured it was just the mood or attitude of the narrative of the story.
My first book—a work of historical fiction which will hopefully be released this year—is, so I’ve been told, fairly ‘stuffy’. I attribute this to several factors: my desire to capture the language and nuances of the time it is set (1914 to 1929); ensuring that the dialogue was not modern; and my own prejudices about writing ‘proper’ English.
When I wrote my first contemporary romance book, I asked a really good friend to read it and give me her opinion. As you do. What she said surprised me. She said I write in an old fashioned way. This confounded me, as she has got ten years on me! However, she reads a lot. I mean, a real lot. She could see what I couldn’t, and that was that the conventions of writing ‘good’ English have changed remarkably since my school days back in the 1960s. Not just punctuation, spelling and some grammar, but the tenor or feel is quite different.
So, I embarked on a trip of finding out just what it was I was doing that I shouldn’t be doing. According to Writers Digest, it’s possible to do exercises to help discover your own unique voice. Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time for exercises. I’d rather write a book and see if my voice jumps out at me.
And, I think I just might have achieved that. You see, my first books were written within the conventions of contemporary romance writing, and with the current market in the forefront of my mind. Sure, there are rules surrounding romance, but they shouldn’t, and don’t, inhibit the writer’s voice. Rather, they are there to ensure that readers get what they expect.
I realise now that the word ‘voice’ is only one part of it. A better term is author ‘style’, and this style is made up of two parts: the voice and the tone. Tone is your word choice, the way you string your sentences together, and your punctuation habits. But the tone must match the voice you use. Think about how you write. What intonation is the narrator (or Point of View) using when they aren’t speaking dialogue? Are there expressions they use, opinions or accents that flavour the story? Whilst these are part of the character’s traits, they are setting the tone of the story.
My next release, Honor’s Debt, is a contemporary romance set in Ireland. It has a couple of short flashbacks to 1939. No way could I have written the dialogue in ‘normal’ English. I had to write it in an Irish accent, using Irish slang and words that reflect the time. So the dialogue in the parts set in 1939 are different to the dialogue in the rest of the book. But the narrative style is one that will carry the reader on a journey through Ireland without having to stumble over hard-to-pronounce words, providing a backdrop to the colourful dialogue.
So, what I’ve learnt is that the tone of the story must match the voice you use, and your author voice must match your audience. Is your author voice young? Maybe you write YA or NA books. If you were writing an academic paper, you’d use an academic voice. A business letter requires a particular way of writing; and so does a casual letter to a good friend.
Your author voice must speak to your audience without grating. But most important of all, your author voice must be true to yourself. It must come naturally, from the heart.
About the Author:
Noelle Clark is an Australian author of contemporary romance and historical novels. Her books weave romance, intrigue, and adventure into colourful and often exotic locations around the world. Widely travelled, Noelle uses real life experience of places, culture, and people, as a backdrop to her stories, giving the reader an authentic taste of the location. Her novels feature strong, mature, heroines and heroes, who-often without knowing it-are ready for new beginnings.
Noelle lives close to the sea and shares her home with two cats and two dogs. She has two grown up children, and three very small grandchildren. When Noelle’s not writing and travelling, she plays guitar, tends her vegetable garden, enjoys the company of family and friends, and-of course- reading.
–COMING SOON from NOELLE CLARK–
Honor Quirk has seen her fair share of tragedy in ther young life. At the age of twenty-seven, she sets out to fulfil a promise. A promise that will repay a very old debt.
She arrives in Ireland determined to carry out her mission. When the opportunity arises to spend time on the old family farm in Tipperary, she jumps at it, but other family members make it very clear they don’t want her there.
As time passes, events of the past catch up with her, and she finds that instead of embarking on her quest alone, she has the unlikely support of others who also bear the scars caused by loss.