Monday, September 14, 2009

Who Are You: Editing for Voice

One of the hardest parts of novel writing, especially in a first draft, is voice. Two or more characters often sound similar, either because their personalities aren't fully developed, or because the writer doesn't know them well enough. It can happen even after a plot treatment and character sketches. If so, there are things you can do to bring out a character's true self. Begin by asking what the character really wants and why. Then ask whom this desire affects, where and when in the story it should appear, and how—in what form—with dialogue, an event, both? Then drill down with your questions until you can't ask anything more without repeating prior answers. Problems with similar voices can mean too many characters, in which case, you can consider combining several into a composite. This makes a tighter and more dramatic plot. Problems with voice usually arise about one-quarter of the way into a finished work. When in doubt, ask a trusted reader to review your writing, but keep control over your work. Peter Selgin, award-winning novelist and author of By Cunning & Craft, says that when someone offers a critique saying that more of something is needed, it usually indicates another problem, often that there should be less. Character is a good example of that.

To put today's musing into action, check out the writing tip at the top of the list and let me know how it goes.

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