Learning from the Masters: Voice


I’ve written about voice in YA contemporary (twice), I’ve written about voice in YA historical, and today I’m going to talk about the voice of a writer who’s not YA at all. Because while it’s absolutely crucial as a writer to read within our genres, there is a tremendous amount to be learned from other genres, also.

So here is this week’s voice example. Perhaps we can play “guess that super-famous author/novel”…

Frannie leaned one hand against the warm metal of her car, took off her sneakers, and put on a pair of rubber thongs. She was a tall girl with chestnut hair that fell halfway down the back of the buff-colored shift she was wearing. Good figure. Long legs that got appreciative glances. Prime stuff was the correct frathouse term, she believed. Looky-looky-looky-here-comes-nooky. Miss College Girl, 1990.

Then she had to laugh at herself, and the laugh was a trifle bitter. You are carrying on, she told herself, as if this was the news of the world. Chapter Six: Hester Prynne Brings the News of Pearl’s Impending Arrival to Rev. Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale he wasn’t. He was Jess Rider, age twenty, one year younger than Our Heroine, Little Fran. He was a practicing college-student-undergraduate-poet. You could tell by his immaculate blue chambray work shirt.

If you don’t already know, this is from Stephen King’s The Stand. If you haven’t read it, please do so immediately. It provides a tremendous amount of lessons for a writer. And a tremendous amount of pleasure, for a reader.

Right away, we get a sense of the voice of this novel. It’s funny, but also tragic. The main issue here is implied, not stated (which I love: show don’t tell!): Frannie’s accidentally gotten pregnant, by a boy she’s not in love with, and both of them are too young to really deal with this (This isn’t really a spoiler, we learn this as soon as we meet Fran in Chapter Two). Of course, if you’ve read The Stand, you know they will both have larger issues to deal with quite soon–but the beauty of this novel doesn’t lie in the insane (though well-done) plot. It lies in the beauty of its characters–and its voice.

Image found here

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