It’s amazing to me how a book can speak to you just like a human being. Open up to the first page (or tap to it) and a well-written novel is a lot like a conversation. Any good book instantly gets you talking back – asking questions, picturing the characters and setting, struggling to complete the puzzle. More incredible is that each book has a unique way of speaking to you. Just like each person you meet.
I’ve been thinking a lot about voice and writing as I’ve read lately, amazed and delighted by how it changes the experience, even if every book you read is in the same genre. When I read The Daily Post writing challenge a couple of weeks ago, I got inspired to talk about it. I’ve realized that voice is one of the main things that can draw me into a book. It changes from writer to writer, but even from book to book.
There are writers whose voice is instantaneously recognizable. In the realm of classic authors, Charles Dickens comes to mind right away. There’s something about the rambling that tips me off. Because I’ve been obsessed with Percy Jackson recently, I’m going to say Rick Riordan for modern-day authors. Each series may have a slightly different tone, but it’s all Riordan’s voice.
And how cool is that when you think about it? It’s like your favorite bands. You know their music in the first few notes without even knowing a particular song. Books can bear the same fingerprint.
Just look at different authors in your collection. Mine includes Suzanne Collins, James Dashner, Jane Austen, Y.S. Lee, Diana Wynne Jones, John Grisham, J.R.R. Tolkien, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Mark Twain. They may share similarities due to genre or time period, but they’re still different.
Some authors have a loud, punchy vibe to their writing (Riordan, Twain), while others are on the quieter side (Austen, Dashner). Christie and Sayers, both queen bees of the mystery world, two completely different voices (and approaches to mystery writing, I might add!). You wouldn’t think you could take the same set of words in the same language and wind up with so many alternatives, but there you have it.
I find voice to be one of the most compelling aspects of good writing, old or new. And when you think about it, it’s really just the writer peeking out at you between the lines.