What is it that defines a voice? Vocabulary? Syntax? Content?
I’ve been studying parodies to try to understand this. The best parodies don’t just copy a situation and point out the ridiculous aspects, they also mimic the voice of the character.
It’s remarkable to me how well they do this. They pick up on the subtle cues that go over my head. Parody writers can discern which mannerisms truly define a person and awaken that voice to use for their own purpose. It’s brilliant.
What do you feel defines voice? How do you find your character’s voice? Does it come in the first draft or the second (or third or fourth?)
When my girls and I moved into Springville, into a closed-ish community, my oldest daughter never really had any friends there. Except for Cassie Pope.
Cassie was kind to Elise and Laura.
I’m so sad for her family.
If you can help them even a little, please do.
Playwrights and screenwriters tell as much “story” as a novelist: and they have to do almost all of it through dialogue. I’ve always thought of Saroyan as a playwright (though he was a novelist and short story writer as well), but I spent much of my adult life as a director of plays and musicals in various high schools. Oh, sure; I taught debate, always English, but what I loved was drama. Saroyan (who died in 1981) won an Academy Award for Best Story for the film adaptation of his novel The Human Comedy. I loved his My Heart’s in the Highlands.
Stephen Fry (you may know this English actor, comedian, author, crazy man) said Saroyan was “one of the most underrated writers of the 20th century.” He also suggested Saroyan should “[take] his place naturally alongside Hemingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner.”
As I was so committed to drama, I tried my hand at writing short stories, then adapting them to become short production pieces. I wrote one children’s musical which was produced by BYU students over 250 times throughout the western states. One of my adaptations won first place at the state drama competition in Sugar City-Salem, Idaho. Try rewriting one of your short stories as a play. You’ll learn how to manipulate dialogue, how to make it work, make it full of “sound and fury” with the characters’ words.
I tell you this, to give depth to a Saroyan quote I love: “You write a hit play the same way you write a flop.”
Yup. And you write a blockbuster novel the same way you write the one you can’t give away. You keep going.