MG Higgins recently did a post that sparked my thoughts about voice. I normally hate the term voice. It annoys me because it's such a slippery term; it can mean so many different things depending on how you look at it and who's defining it.
I propose this today that there are at least two voices in every work. Did you know that the emperor penguin, like most birds, has a two-part organ that produces its "voice?" In most birds, these two parts of the organ are used separately from each other, but in several species of penguins, they're used together. Especially with the emperor penguin. Because there's no possible way for the penguins that mate together to find each other's nests in order to switch off "egg warming" duty, they must use their distinct voice pattern to recognize each other for the rounds.
Hmm, two voices creating a distinct voice that matches no other. Because there're a lot of penguins waddling around on that ice.
First, I've noticed in every novel I've written, there are two voices. The first one?
I think this is something extremely hard to lose or avoid unless, like I've done before, you're being dishonest with yourself and trying to write something that's not who you are. Every writer has a voice. It just sort of happens. And it's not something I feel you can consciously alter. Our experiences make it what it is. It shows through in every word choice, every sentence construction. In my opinion, referring to MG Higgins's post, this voice does not change.
The other one?
Your narrator's voice.
This is often the Main Character, but think of it in terms of the essential viewpoint character, the one you cannot tell the story without. They have a voice, just like you do. In my novel, Monarch, I have three POV characters, but only one is the essential viewpoint of the story, and he flavors everything, even the other viewpoints. In my opinion, this voice should change.
Like MG says:
In my novel, my main character makes an important life decision and becomes more self-aware. So she shouldn't sound exactly the same on the last page as she does on the first. She's still spunky (since that's a personality trait), but not as sarcastic. And she's more relaxed because her decision has been made.
Remember the Penguin
So like the penguins, try to remember that you've got dual voices going on, and that they should work together to create a feel for that novel, and that novel alone. This is how we can write completely different novels that feel distinct, but the same. Our voice usually doesn't change (unless over a long period of time as we change) but each essential viewpoint will change for a different book (outside of a series, I suppose).
MG said she has a hard time separating personality traits that don't change from a situational-based personality trait that's more pliable. Those pliable traits, like MG's character's sarcasm, are what make a story arc exciting. When a character actually changes their worldview because of the action, choices they make, etc., that's when the story gets exciting. They change. They grow. Their voice should change to reflect that!
Question For the Day: Do you feel like you have two voices going on in your work? How does it help you, if you do?
~MDA (aka Glam)