"All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen." (from "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas)
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a very unevenly edited book and contains many passages that simply seemed to its editors like a good idea at the time.
One of these (the one Arthur now came across) supposedly relates the experiences of one Veet Voojagig, a quiet young student at the University of Maximegalon, who pursued a brilliant academic career studying ancient philology, transformational ethics and the wave harmonic theory of historical perception, and then, after a night of drinking Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters with Zaphod Beeblebrox, became increasingly obsessed with the problem of what had happened to all the ballpoints he'd bought over the past few years." (from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams)
"Lula and the couch were almost identical shades of brown, with the exception of Lula's hair, which happened to be cherry red today.
"I always feel sort of anemic when I stand next to Lula. I'm a third-generation American of Italian-Hungarian heritage. I have my mother's pale skin and blue eyes and good metabolism, which allows me to eat birthday cake and still (almost always) buttoning the top snap on my Levi's. From my father's side of the family I've inherited a lot of unmanageable brown hair and a penchant for Italian hand gestures. On my own, on a good day with a ton of mascara and four-inch heels, I can attract some attention. Next to Lula I'm wallpaper." (from Seven Up by Janet Evanovich)
"She started to laugh. She couldn't help it, she had to, and then she couldn't stop, even when Shane knocked on the door and said, "Agnes?" she still couldn't stop, and he rattled the door but she'd locked it, so he kicked it in and came in and held her and said, "It's okay," and she held on to him and said, "I know," and cried and then after a while she stopped, and he kissed the top of her head and patted her back, and she said, "That was bad," and he said, "Yeah," and she said, "I won't do it again," and he said, "I thought you meant the shooting," and she said, "That, too," and let go of him and got dressed and put on her glasses.
"When she had herself together again, she went out to the kitchen and got Rhett a dog biscuit in case he'd been traumatized. "At least is won't ever get any worse than this," she told him. He seemed comforted by that.
"Then as Brenda's goddamned son of a bitch ugly black grandfather clock gonged midnight in the front hall, she went out onto the porch to wait for somebody named Carpenter to come and clean the blood out of her kitchen." (from Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer)
Voice. I've quoted above four of the most distinct voices in 20th or 21th century fiction. Certainly not the only authors I could have selected, but four that I happened to have on my bookshelf and four of whom I actually read on a fairly regular basis. Dylan Thomas, Douglas Adams, Janet Evanovich and Jennifer Crusie.
Voice. Can you hear it? If I lined up Brian May, Eric Clapton, The Edge and Mark Knopfler, I might make Yvonne's ears bleed. But as well, I could tell you within 2 chords, if it took that long, which of those four men was currently playing. Even if they each were playing the one song I've conquered on the guitar - Jamaica A E-minor C - I'd recognize their individual guitarist's voice.
Voice. What is it? Barbara Samuel tells me, "Voice is the potato, style is the French fry." Voice is the ingredients that I have shopped for literally all my life. It is in part my grandfather's humming and stacking and restacking cutlery at the dinner table and my grandmother's yearly family reunions; it is my eldest siblings learning Spanish when I was two, teaching my absorbent mind to count to 10 in Spanish before I could in English. It was my minister's Welsh accent and my weekly Scottish Country Dance lessons with an English neighbor. It was the first book I ever read by myself, Fraidy Cat, and the first song I learned in another language, "Frere Jacques."
Voice. What is it? Kathy Gilles Seidel tells me, "Voice is the result of everything -- who you choose to write about, where you set your books, what you notice in your descriptions, your values, your interests, pretty much everything about you as a person/writer."
Voice. Can you figure out someone elses? When I read Dylan Thomas, I can hear the sound of the sea in his language, in the rhythm of his words which comes from the rhythm of the Welsh language and accent. But what about in popular fiction or genre fiction rather than literary poetic-prose? Can I hear Cambridge in Douglas Adams' voice? Or the Fens? Did he listen to the Rolling Stones and the Yard Birds? How obvious is the Mid-West in Jenny's writing or Jersey in Janet's. At least if Jenny's weren't situated in Ohio or Janet's in Trenton?
Voice. Can it be nurtured? Can it be killed? Because Style is different than voice, an author's voice should shine through no matter what he's written. Be it an opinion piece he wrote for Entertainment magazine, his memoir On Writing, or Cujo, Stephen King's voice resonates through all of his writing. What if he hadn't written Carrie, though? What if he had tried a different genre? Cozy mysteries. Fantasy. Romance. Would he still be Stephen King, multi-million selling, bestseller-writing author? Or did he stumble onto a style that fit his voice?
Voice. Do I have one? It is one thing to write about myself and my opinion and another to write about a fictional character or world. As an author, I must try and fail and try again and experiment in order to discover where my voice best fits. While I'm fairly certain it isn't in tech manuals, and I hope it isn't in hard science fiction as I have no interest there, the rest is as yet unsettled.
What about you? Can you see or hear your distinct voice? Have you ever thought about where it came from? Or do you think it's all hokum, and an author just needs to write a good story?