This is a thought that occurred to me in the last week or so.
Do I have a particular writing style? Do I even have a particular writing voice? I think I have a particular blogging writing voice, which is really just a more literate and voluminous version of the way I speak. Or at least the way the continual monologue in my head goes.
Ugh, writing brain, I tell ya.
But I’m less sure about my fiction. Some of it, I concede, depends on what I’m writing about. I’m thinking about some of my favorite authors—Ian McEwan, with his very literary style; Jane Austen, with her eighteenth century English, sparse description and sly and sarcastic narrative; Elizabeth Chadwick, with her immersive, personal style of writing historicals; Sherry Thomas: lush, crafted sentences with interesting words and characters; Jamie Ford, lush, descriptive, literary yet simple…
So what’s my style, I wonder?
Well, it changes from story to story. But is it still me, my voice? I’ve been told that I have a writing voice, which, you know, is kind of important. This is what the almighty Wikipedia has to say on writing voice. I know I have a voice–I’m just not entirely sure what kind of voice it is.
Now, off the top of my head, I can say that my writing style tends to be on the sparser side, I think. It generally comes out as sarcasm and then gets crafted into not-quite-so-sarcasm; I have a pretty dry sense of humor. I strive for honesty. I think my style tends to be on the conversational side of things, maybe? I think I write interesting characters. I know I write good dialogue. If anything, my damn characters talk too much.
All I can say is that, along with my particular perspective and whacked-out thought process, a writer’s voice is unique, too. I know I have one. I’m just not sure what the characteristics are. I don’t think I’m particularly literary and my vocab needs work and I still think my descriptions could be more, well, descriptive…
What do you think gives a writer’s voice their voice, their style? How would you describe yours?
So let’s compare a bit. Snippets time!
Let’s just go with the WIP, shall we? This is Pearl:
Pearl’s stomach dropped, along with her heart. This was no mere ‘flu. It might not be yellow fever or malaria, but there were all kinds of tropical fevers and Mrs. Keegan could have caught any of them. It was one thing to be feverish; it was another to be feverish and look so weak, as if her muscles couldn’t hold her up no more.
“Pearl,” Mr. Keegan said, sounding sharp. “Fetch a doctor. If you don’t know where to find one, ask Miss Wendell in her store.”
Pearl swallowed. Good God, had it come to that? Maybe Ol’ Rebecca down in the quarter could mix up something herbal for Mrs. Keegan to take. It was better than being bled by the doctor.
They said blood-letting was good, but Pearl wondered if letting out blood wouldn’t finish Mrs. Keegan altogether, the way she was looking.
Mrs. Keegan’s eyes closed. Pearl turned and left the room, running down the stairs.
A doctor. Where was she going to find a doctor?
Bridgetown. No, too far.
The neighboring plantation might know. The local doctor might be visiting them at present. There were a few doctors in this district of Saint Michael parish. But where to find one this very instant?
Mr. Keegan was right. Miss Wendall’s store was a start.
Pearl walked out the front door and down the drive to the gates. She reached the side of the road and realized that she didn’t have a pass.
Didn’t matter much. The neighborhood knew her as Mrs. Keegan’s maid. A patrol was unlikely anyhow.
It was just, Pearl realized as she walked as fast as she could, that she’d never been off a plantation without her mistress or a written pass before.
Despite her terrible errand, a sizzle of excitement ran up and down her arms.
This is Miles:
In the distance, aft near the stern, a dark shape clung to the rigging. Miles squinted against the brilliant glares and oranges of the sun. Perhaps it was a seagull or an albatross. The shape moved. That was no bird.
The hatch opened and a black woman popped out of it. It was Pearl, her hair wrapped in a piece of green cloth.
“Mr. Keegan, I can’t find Miss Alex!”
“I thought she was with you.”
“She was, but she had to use the necessary and asked for her privacy. Then she ran off somewhere.” Pearl’s bottom lip stuck out in disapproval and annoyance.
No wonder Adele had often been vexed by their oldest child. He wondered, in a fit of dark humor, whether Mary had foreseen how spirited, active, and tiring their daughter would grow to be. Maybe that was why she ran away.
“Where could that girl get off to?” Miles asked.
The shape in the rigs moved. The shape had limbs.
All of the cabin boys should have been below in the galley for their supper by now. There were four of them and they alternated shifts.
The shape moved again, a little higher. The current was not fractious just now and all of the cabin boys, young adolescent males, shimmied up and down the rigging like spiders in webs. Surely it couldn’t be.
“Hey, you, lad!” Miles called. On the sea, he could bellow as loud as he wanted to. “You ought to be below! Don’t you want your supper, boy?”
I would SO post scenes from the NaNo ’13 story, too, but I’ll leave you with these samples from the WIP instead. Or maybe I’ll do another few posts about writing style and voice with other stories as examples.