Multiple novel voices

Each novel should have its own voice.

What is a voice? To put it simply, style. Compare these three passages from three different books, all written by me.

First, a for-fun book:
Kenji felt a twinge of pride arising in the pit of his stomach. Age twelve, second year of middle school, seventh grade. Dressed in a white shirt and dark pants, the school’s uniform. In his mind, he was vastly more mature than his sixth grade self, and it was time for him to take the first step in embracing his maturity. For years, this particular act had not occurred to be of any importance. But a seventh grade boy had to be conscious of his looks. And so, he un-tucked his shirt and embraced age twelve.

Second, a casual book written in a serious setting:
Alquin held his glass faithfully, never sipping too much, never getting a refill. He’d walk around for a moment, catch the eye of an important person, walk over, and then talk with them for a bit. It was all general, all part of the formality of the situation. On one side of the great room sat the host, one of the great admirals of the empire. He sat in a massive chair adorned with silver and jade. Its unmoving majesty matched the solid presence that the admiral projected.

And third, a very out-there, no rules, do what I want kind of project:
B felt pangs of confusion at seeing the false face every morning, grinning from ear to ear and still looking perfect. How it was even possible to have such a ridiculously large smile and yet still look gorgeous was a paradox B wasn’t willing to dive into. She has circled that black hole before, and decided that it was actually for the best, as the living this girl made more than made up for the slight possibility that her smile may one day create a singularity that engulfs the world.

As I read each of them, I know that they are something written by me. But would an outsider? Maybe, but the voice of each book is different, even if each is from the same author.

When writing the first one, I feel like playing. It should be playful, fast-paced, and fun to both write and read. If a thought comes, it goes in right away. It’s almost like impulse writing.

The second was with the thought of pretentiousness. The entire work feels a little high-brow, but it isn’t. I wrote it with the intention of it being somewhat boring. I’m not sure I did a good job on that point, since I can read it without sleeping, but the overall work has this voice that jumps in pitch from action to boredom to serious. But it’s always the same voice. It’s never like the playful voice of the first. Because the second book was written with the thought of “serious”, which is the irony of the matter. Just to clarify, I wrote it as a parody of serious at first.

And the third was the toughest to pick a passage from. The third is filled with narration about the world and people in it, and the main character’s observations. It’s a sci-fi, somewhat cyberpunk work. And its voice is both hard yet easy to write in. It is over-the-top. Every bit of it is. It’s inspiried by the cyberpunk of William Gibson, Stephenson, and all the rest from that genre. It seems more laid back, and that’s about the closest I can describe the feeling it takes to write it.

Overall, what has been the point of this? Well, when working on several different novels of separate genres or styles, the voice has to change. Something like The Great Gatsby couldn’t be written with the voice of The Scarlett Letter, and vice versa. It just wouldn’t work. My way is to associate a feeling and a mindset with each one. “Serious” gets its own style. “Happy” makes its debut everywhere, but isn’t a dominant trait. “Casual” comes close to the style I blog in, since that is essentially freeform. Anything written when that word is the dominant feeling has a very earthy, easy feel to it. Then there is tech-driven, poetic, romantic, etc. Once you associate a novel with a feeling or style that you can identify, it is a simple matter to work on multiple works at once. You aren’t changing your style, your just writing with the appropriate feeling for this particular work.
And of course, someone who is a single-genre writer can ignore this. Pigeonholing doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It lets your readers know exactly what they are getting ahead of time. That’s extremely important, and something to be discussed later.

805 words that could have been used in three novels.

About James Ashman

I write books of the fantasy, heroic, and adventure types. So far. I'm an author who loves fantastic stories.
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