Monday, 5 December 2011

MONDAY MAGIC - Vonnie Hughes

Please welcome to Monday Magic fellow RWAustralia member, and Regency and Suspense author Vonnie Hughes!



As writers, we constantly hear about ‘voice.’  Your voice is the way you say things on paper, what you say, the way you present things to the reader.  It is you, your persona that shines through the words.  Many readers can tell who the author of a book is by the way the book reads e.g. J.D. Robb’s Eve responds to adversity in quite a different way from, say, a Gayle Wilson heroine.  Whereas Eve punches her way through problems, solving them by putting herself in the perpetrator’s shoes, Gayle Wilson’s Susan (from Wednesday’s Child) or Sarah (from Victim) are more covertly intellectual.  They have waited and agonized and wondered and eventually, when a clue is discovered, not necessarily by themselves, take action.  Eve is more likely to discover the clues herself and roar into action.

There are as many different ways to say something as there are writers, and as many ways to interpret the words as there are readers.  Remember that favorite saying of editors: You can take the same story, give it to ten writers, and get back ten totally different stories?  The education and socio-economic background of a writer influences the way they pose a question or solve a problem.  The geographical background of an author influences a writer mightily e.g. the voice of a writer from the Bronx who never made it to college, or even one who managed to get to college later on in life, will write very differently from an author with a double degree from Harvard.

And that is why a writer need never be afraid of someone stealing his/her ideas.  Every person perceives a scene or a person or an event in different ways, and those different ways are what make for the uniqueness of your voice.  We could all write Little Red Riding Hood at least thirty different ways, and if you multiplied that by authors willing to try the exercise, you’d have hundreds of different versions.

The voice is what appeals to particular readers.  It is why people say, “Oh, I couldn’t stand her.  She waffles on and on about scenery until I lose track of the story” or “He gets so deep into forensics I don’t understand it.”  On the other hand these same readers will enthuse “Loved it.  Loved the whole series.  Easy to understand but with just enough mystery to keep me interested.”  In other words: each to his own.

Occasionally a writer will try to change their voice to suit a particular publication. Sometimes it works; often it doesn’t.  You are not being true to yourself as a writer if you’re struggling to dance to someone else’s tune.  A writer I admire who changes her settings greatly yet stays true to her voice is Jayne Ann Krentz.  Futuristic, historical, contemporary, paranormal, whatever, you can tell a Jayne Ann Krentz (a.k.a. Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle) novel because of her quirky characters and her voice.  You can pick up any one of her books and say, “Oh, that’s JAK.”  And that is the root of her success, because her readers can switch genres but still be satisfied. For example, I would never have begun reading paranormals if it wasn’t that JAK was writing strongly in that genre. And I admired JAK’s voice so much and the way it translated to just about anywhere, that I began reading first her paranormals, and then other people’s.

The problem with trying to alter your voice to suit someone else is that every word must be agonized over, every phrase re-thought and it is very difficult not to become stilted.  Trying to fit into a particular publisher’s pigeon-hole can be draining, and in the end, pointless.  There are publishers (paper and e-publishers) out there who WILL like your voice, so why bother with those who don’t?  Sure, breaking into publishing is harder than finding the philosopher’s stone, but e-publishers are a lot more relaxed about people who write outside the square. They are open to cross-genre writers.  Once you have found your niche, why not stick with it for a while before you expand? You can build up a fan base in that style and genre. Then you will feel confident enough to carry your voice over to a different genre i.e. you could move from cozies to romantic suspense or from adventure to sci-fi.  Whatever you do, your voice will follow.  It’s part of you.  Understand it.  Respect it. Nurture it. 

You can find Vonnie at the following places:

Vonnie has a Regency short story in the free Christmas read from Musa Publishing. Click HERE to find it

Musa is releasing a Regency novel called THE SECOND SON on December 16. This is rather unusual because it is a prequel to a book which is already out in hardback (With Robert Hale) called COMING HOME.

COMING HOME is also being released on 31 January 2012 as an e-book.

on 13 January The Wild Rose Press are releasing Vonnie's Romantic Suspense LETHAL REFUGE.
It is set in New Zealand and is about the fledgling witness protection scheme there.


Joanne Stewart said...

You must be psychic Vonnie. I needed this reminder today. Thanks. :)

Cornell Deville said...

Vonnie - I enjoyed this article very much. I think "voice" is a subject matter that doesn't get the exposure and blog posts is deserves. As you mention, it's a critical element in a writer's toolbox and one that is usually developed over time. It's not something that can be taught but rather has to be created by finding the most comfortable manner to write your sentences, select your words, and put it all together in a manner that becomes something of an individual signature.

Thanks for posting this. It's always enlightening to get another author's take one something.

Vonnie Davis said...

I wrote about Voice on my blog yesterday. I tried to subtly say what you so succinctly said. I recently went through a terrible editing session that made me doubt my voice and talent as a writer. I wanted to bang my head against the wall. I cried. I vented to my agent. I compromised on some issues and stood firm on others. And, yes, I weighed every word and examined every phrase. Great post. The older Vonnie.

Patricia said...

I really enjoyed this, Vonnie. I still am not sure what my voice is and I've written 3 WF books and 1 contemp. Your post was well-written and interested me.

Maggie Nash said...

Sorry I'm late to welcome you Vonnie :-) You make some great points there!
Sometimes I think it's others who figure out what your "voice" is... as a writer we often get too close to our work and it's the reader who can pick up our individual voice. Sometimes when I read friends work I can hear them talking. I think this comes with becoming relaxed with what you pen, and just letting it come instead of agonising over each word, phrase or sentence. Of course, sometimes you can't help it, but in the end it's the writing that we do on automatic pilot that shows our true self :-)


Calisa Rhose said...

This is so true, Vonnie. Great to remember we are who WE are, not who 'they' want us to be.

Amaleen Ison said...

Fabulous post, Vonnie. It's very easy to be led astray and lose your voice. Sometimes you have to stand firm.

Katherine said...

Great post, Vonnie. It took me a long time to find my writing voice because I kept being told by a former critique partner that I sounded like Author X or Y.

Vonnie said...

Good to hear from everyone. voice seems to be something that develops over time and it sounds as though we've all suffered at one time or another from other people's perceptions of who we are, and how we express it.