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Award-Winning Novels!

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EyelandsShorter
Snack runs in Utah just got deadly

Bold Satire Crimes of Convenience:

  • Grand Finalist of 200 entries in the 40th annual 3-Day Novel Contest.
  • A Blue Collar Conspiracy!
Jessica has become just psychic enough to get herself killed

YA Speculative Mystery Too Much Information:

…and check my profile page for links to twenty award-winning published short stories.

 

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What the heck is ‘Voice’?

bram_stoker

He was a great author, but Bram Stoker didn’t have the voice we want to read now.

Every writer who’s submitted anything has had so sit through a stern lecture about Voice. “The Voice isn’t quite right.” “Publishers are super-attuned to voice.” Or, my personal favorite: “Your narrative has no voice.”

No voice? None? With thousands of words filling hundreds of pages it would have to at least sound like me. When I speak, people hear my voice, so surely it’s the same when I write.

Agents may have been sparing my feelings when they gave me these actual points of feedback. They couldn’t have meant the narrative was silent, so maybe they just didn’t like the writing. I think there’s more, though. I think part of it might be that they want something in #ownvoices.

And preferably someone else’s own.

The Author’s Voice

Dracula

Western literature’s first and ‘most boring’ vampire

As usual, it’s pesky old history that helps to explain this. Back in the days before every story had already been written, readers actually wanted to read the voice of someone who wrote intellectually, or at least using the rules of English. The author’s voice—formal in tone and judgemental in attitude—was one that lesser-educated readers could really respect. Not long ago, a Twitter follower made the comment that reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula was all at once boring and fascinating. That makes perfect sense for many of the classics: their timeless storylines can seem fresh and new to anyone who takes the trouble, but oh, ehm and gee, reading those sentences fifteen times each can really take it out of a guy. Even first-person narrators spoke in the educated author’s unmistakable voice.

So what are we losing by putting down books like that? What are we gaining? Ignoring the classics deprives our intellects of history’s greatest stories but gives our emotions a chance to connect to the greatest of them now. Still, we’re in flux about this concept of ‘Voice.’

The Narrator’s Voice

suzanne-collins-jennifer-lawrence-hunger-games

Be honest: would you rather listen to Suzanne or to Katniss?

Even Stoker himself was experimenting with Voice in Dracula. By writing it as a series of letters years before Stephen Chbosky played with that structure in Wallflower, the old Bramster may have already been noticing that people wanted something different.

So, after the Modernists like Joyce and Woolf made it popular, readers started preferring to hear a story from a fictional narrator’s perspective. No longer was the author master of the genre, but another more interesting Voice was taking over—more interesting, maybe, because it didn’t exist. It belonged to a narrator who had the advantage of being invented.

To this day, that’s the style that remains most popular. Everything from Catcher in the Rye to The Hunger Games takes on a made-up voice for a made-up narrator. Maybe that’s why they seem more natural; a fictitious Voice might just fit in better with the fictions that it’s describing. It’s just easier to feel a personal connection to those bigger personalities.

And that’s where some of us start to face a problem.

The Own Voice

JoyLuck

Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club helped break ground for other #ownvoices

For a while, it was possible for an author whose own life is boring—let’s say an author like me—to write using the persona of a troubled teenage girl or a driving instructor whose ex-student brings assassins into his life. In other words, we could write from a more exciting perspective. Trends are changing again, though. More and more, agents are looking for #ownvoices.

You know it’s important when it’s earned its own hashtag. You know there’s a new pressure. That pressure has shifted from Stoker being the most educated man in the room to Katniss Everdeen being the most emotional narrator, and now all the way back to the author herself being the most exciting. For all its appeal, it still creates a problem for someone whose brain is in my body. If the voice of an old white guy is too dull to write, but I’m compelled to write only in my own voice, then that leaves me with one question.

What’s left for me to write?

#ownvoices is important. It opens the door for marginalized authors to write from experience about their societies or subcultures. The world is a more accepting place because of movements like this.

Like putting down a classic, though, I can’t help but wonder what we’re going to start missing.

Stop Dreading the Dream: 4 reasons to keep writing

twitter-logo

If you want to experience every emotion in the space of a minute, just sign up to Twitter. It’s a place where writers can be abused, men can be accused, and a President can spread lies faster than any time in history. The #WritingCommunity on Twitter, though, is also a place for writers to find a support network… and one of the most supportive friends I’ve found is author Michele Sagan, who’s just been agented for her thriller, The Lies He Tells.

And it only took her twenty years. Continue reading

3 Reasons to Rewrite the Marginalized

MedievalWoman

Women were known to fight in Medieval battles

It wasn’t long ago that academic medievalist and author, Adam D. Jones, shut down an argument by tweeting that women played much more prominent roles in medieval society than most of us realize. Despite that contribution to history, though, our fiction would have us believe that they spent their time languishing in locked-up towers, waiting for princes or knights to finally get off their horses for the rescue. Only recently have authors begun cladding medieval heroines in armour and chain, and some of those authors are copping more than a bit of flak for it in the often-hostile Twittiverse.

Jones says they’re right, though… and that’s the first reason for authors to rewrite what we think we know about minorities. Continue reading

Intruded

Here’s some free fiction! I’m posting this as an experiment; something unpolished that I wrote in an hour, and posted raw. As writers, I think that we focus on editing areas that are important to us, but maybe not to our readers. Comments on how this story could improve are welcome, so that I can compare a list of readers’ editing priorities to my own. Yes, learning can be fun!

Visit my profile page for links to twenty published, more polished stories.

door

“Oh, hey, Dylan,” the stranger said, rising out of Elliot’s favorite chair. “You’re finally home.”

Somehow, my reflex was to explain: to apologize to this intruder for holding up her busy schedule of breaking and entering. “I, uh… had some shopping to do,” I told her stupidly.

She glanced around at the collection of cloth bags near my feet. “Shame,” she said about my motley montage of groceries and toiletries. “I wish you’d called. I could have saved you the trouble.” I could see that this confident stranger was wearing heels, but her steps were oddly silent as they crossed the floor toward me. Kneeling, she started poking through my bags.

Behind me, the open door framed me with the fluorescent glow of my building’s hallway. The buzz from old lights like that drove me crazy; Elliot had always sworn she couldn’t hear them, but I needed to close the door.

I needed to get rid of the stranger, first. Continue reading

Center of the Subculture

Emo

Even ‘Emos’ have fun.

If you write a book about Emos, I bet you won’t call them that. Does your novel follow a Psycho? Maybe you describe her as an alternative thinker. If nerds are the heroes of your story, or for that matter vandals or drug abusers, then your story—almost by definition—is trying to make them seem more heroic.

You’re writing to shift the literary ‘center’ of their subculture.

The problem faced by champions of a subculture (let’s call them ‘writers’) is that the center of it starts in the world’s metatext. In other words, the subculture already has a bad reputation… not just in our world but in other literature, in nasty jokes and riddles, and in casual putdowns from the mouths of cops and parents. The job of a YA champion, then, is to shift the center of the subculture into the story’s text. Continue reading