Monday, May 14, 2012


By Julie Daines
The Ten Commandments of Writing and When to Break Them

Writing Conferences. We go. We listen. We obey. Maybe sometimes we obey too much.

My next few posts will be about when to break the writing commandments.

Comandment #4

Thou Shalt Find Your Voice

Voice, voice, voice. We hear about it everywhere. Especially in YA and MG lit. And with good reason. No one wants to read from a boring, same-old same-old point of view.

A good voice can add depth to a character, give us insight into what motivates the character, and makes him/her multi-dimensional.

Unfortunately, many writers of YA and MG equate voice with snarky sarcasm. Big mistake. An overdose of sarcasm distances the reader and makes the main character less sympathetic.

Yes, kids these days are full of sarcasm, but it takes a little more than that to create voice. 

As agent Mary Kole puts it:
You can’t just give readers a sarcastic, quippy voice and a character who is biting and caustic and call it a day. That’s not all there is to teen voice or teen characters. In fact, writers who think that they’ve made an instant teenager by adding one part extra sarcasm are a big pet peeve of mine. 
Rather than re-hash this subject, let me add a few links to some very helpful posts about voice:

From Nathan Bransford: How to Craft a Great Voice

Those two articles should be enough to get you started. Just remember, voice is possibly the hardest part of writing. Getting it right is what separates published from the slush pile. 

Examples of novels with great voice:

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Bound  by Donna Jo Napoli

What are your thoughts on voice? 
What books have you found with incredible voice?

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Michelle said...

I agree. One of my favorite books is "The Wednesday Wars" by Gary Schmidt. The main character is a 7th grade boy. He definitely has his sarcastic moments, but there is a lot more to him than that!
I recently read the sequel, "Ok for Now". It is told from the point of view of a different 7th grade boy. The voice is similar (which makes sense), but not the same. You can tell it's the same author and the same age boy, but his unique personality really shines through.
"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" is another example of a great voice.

Michelle said...

PS- I don't think I realized it before, but I Am the Messenger does have a great voice! Love that book.