Posts Tagged ‘award-winning author’

What’s Your Writing Voice?

April 1, 2019


I spent all day last Saturday at Michael Dwyer’s Rochester Writers’ Conference … the best one-day writing conference in the state (at least, to me it is). I’ve been to almost all of them … going back years.

It was another day well spent (and it kept me out of the rain).

Saw some good presentations, listened to some good speakers, made new friends and saw several old ones.

Reflecting on it, I realized one of the telling comments of the day actually came from people not associated with the presentations.

In one of our table discussions, we were all talking about how we came to the avocation of storytelling. One of the speakers said she actually started because her friends told her she wrote well.

The gentleman across the table started to discuss what she wrote about and the content of her sentences, and he eventually asked how well she thought she connected ideas in her sentences to one another.

It made her pause.

Writing Voice
It made me realize that, in the end, the task of writing a story boils down simply to writing sentences within scenes. By themselves, they may not be amazing sentences. They might not be poetic. They might not display dazzling alliteration.

But a good writing voice … at least a consistent, clear one … can produce glowing strings of intricate beauty. Voice is the outcome elicited by the words you choose and the sentences you assemble using them. Voice is the effect on the reader.

Voice is your style.

The highest goal of voice is clarity … not to write sentences that call undue attention to themselves.

Creating (or fixing) a writing voice won’t be found in a manual. It involves an investment of time. In other words: read, read, read.

The best strategy is to begin noticing how your writing voice compares to the voice of successful authors you admire. Try to categorize their voices and observe how they use language. Compare their sentences to yours. If you can see the difference, then three more words apply:

Practice. Practice. Practice.

This is an ear thing, a sensibility thing. It is something that can be learned over time, but be sure to get feedback from someone qualified who cares enough to be honest. It may be the best opportunity you ever have to experience a writing epiphany.

* * * * *

I’ll be joining a host of other authors signing books at SterlingFest in Sterling Heights, Michigan on July 27.

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Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Can You Make Your Narrative Voice Sing?

January 15, 2019

Telling a story is very much like taking a picture. You choose the elements you want to include and decide on the perspective.

For instance, imagine you’re writing a story where three very different singers – let’s say, Tony Bennett, Willie Nelson and Janis Joplin – are each singing “Itsy-Bitsy Spider.”

Interesting concept … right?

I’m sure you can hear how each of them would interpret the song, making it his or her own by imprinting it with his or her unique style.

The plot doesn’t change at all from singer-to-singer; we know that persistent little arachnid will get washed out of the spout, yet will eventually triumph over adversity.

But each version’s style is determined by the singer’s tone of voice, which notes are emphasized, the tempo and the background music.

A writer has to do the same thing with words to establish style.

Which is a long way to go merely to point out it isn’t necessarily what you say, it’s the way you say it.

That’s the narrative voice.

First-Person
If your story is written in the first-person, like most of mine are, the relationship you’re developing is between the narrator and the reader. Whether you want the reader to like, dislike, admire or loathe the narrator, the most important thing is to compel the reader, to keep them turning pages.

Take this excerpt from my award-winning novel ONE WAY STREET:

*****

    As soon as the Medivac left and our cover-fire slackened, the NVA began to probe our position again from both sides.
    We had no air support as we made our way back to the top of Hill 882, where we regrouped and formed the most nervous night perimeter I ever hope to be in. We were short of just about everything, from ammunition to grenades, and weren’t supposed to be resupplied until the next morning.
    “Can I ask you something, Blake?” I said to a weary-looking Thompson when he took the position next to me.
    “Sure,” he said, adding, “Wish I could light up a fag. I really do need a cigarette.”
    “You and me both.”
    “Barrett, you don’t smoke,” Blake said.
    “Yeah, I do,” I replied. When he stared at me I added, “But only when I’m scared.”
    He chuckled a little, but still sounded nervous, “I take it your knees haven’t stopped shaking,” he said.
    “I don’t know,” I said, “my ass hasn’t stop leaking long enough to find out.”
    He broke into a loud, whooping chortle, which he tried hard to stifle. The next man in the perimeter shushed him. Blake was silent for several moments, looking from the stars in the dark sky to the safety on his M-16. “Think we’ll be OK?” he said in a whisper.
    “I wish I knew,” I said, as I reloaded my own M-16. “But I wouldn’t be giving us very good odds.”
    “I was afraid of that.” Blake’s eyes looked up at the jungle without raising his head. “Was that what you wanted to talk about?”
     I’d almost forgotten the question I’d asked him.
    “No, I was just thinking about a guy I used to know,” I said, “a friend…but you wouldn’t know him…so never mind.”
    “What was his name?” Blake turned to look at me. He had blacked his face for camouflage and muddy streaks were caked on top of it. He could have been a clown, if he smiled. Or the devil himself, if he was angry.
    “His name was Albert Parker,” I said, “He used to live right across the street from me.”
    “Good guy?”
    I thought about it a moment. “Yeah,” I said, looking over at Blake, “a really good guy.”
   “You said he used to live across the street. Did he move, or something?”
     “No,” I said, “he died.”
    “Aw, that’s too bad, man,” Blake said. He adjusted his bandolier and started to lean back against the mound of dirt behind us. “What’d he die from?”
    “Coming over here.”

*****

Even though it is all coming from the perspective of the character Barrett, hopefully you can hear the dark undertones of the situation. It’s also my hope that you’re just dying to know what happens next!

Third-Person-Omniscient
This often used POV has no restrictions as to whose perspective you use to view the fictional world. Often it seems to be a know-it-all voice outside the specific time of the story. The clearest example I can think of is the opening of Charles Dickens’ A TALE OF TWO CITIES:

*****

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

*****

In this POV, the intimacy is formed with a trusted narrator who isn’t really part of the story. The narrative voice has a wisdom about the world, and the reader must trust that this voice will continue to comment on events and put them in perspective.

Either way, always remember, description is a tool to enhance the story, the same way a frame enhances a painting. If the frame is too ornate or large, it overshadows the artwork.

It’s like stepping on the gas pedal of your car; only do so in relation to how fast you want the car to go … and remember that great Stephen King quote: “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

* * * * *

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Feeling Productive?

January 5, 2019

If you’re a writer anything like me, you probably have lots of story ideas floating around in the wrinkled old gray matter under your cap. I know I sure do. There’s a lot waiting to bloom.

As I mentioned last month, 2018 was a productive time for me. I’ve completed several chapters of three entirely different books. A couple of them are sequels to my current novels, and I’m pretty comfortable with where they’re going. I expect them to be done by summer.

But the entirely new one has me in something of a quandary.

I’ve always heard it said you have to hook your reader within the first three hundred words, or you’ll never get them to turn the page, let alone finish reading. I’ve repeated that mantra often.

Part of me believes that conventional wisdom to be true … not because “conventional wisdom” says so, but because I often decide on a book purchase myself after scanning the first couple of pages.

So, I must be ahead of the game. I’ve actually got several thousand words down on the new book. It’s just … none of them seem quite right as the start of the story. I’ve changed the beginning several times already.

So, I need some feedback, and I decided, as I’ve done before, to put the (current) beginning of it here:

* * * * *

Harkau
Electricity came to the village of Harkäu in the year 1937. That doesn’t sound like much to the children of today, because they don’t realize what a blessing it was not to live by candlelight.

Once people got over the big, wooden poles stringing unsightly wire alongside all the roads, many of the old farmers, at least those few who could scrape together enough money, put an electric light bulb in a room or two, usually hanging it bare from the center of the ceiling.

Those lights, all by themselves, were a fabulous invention that changed our lives, but some in the village who could afford them also had an outlet installed and bought a radio to plug into it, and those radios brought the rest of the world into our homes.

My brother-in-law, the baker, ordered one for himself and another for his brother. In no time at all, the neighbors would gather in the evenings at one of those radios. It made us all feel so very worldly to listen to those broadcasts.

A lot of the local broadcasts were performances by some of Germany’s top orchestras and opera singers, which were marvelous, but the messages were also heavily laced with National Socialist German Workers’ Party ideals.

I wasn’t sure I agreed with all the rhetoric contained in the broadcasts we were allowed to hear, but I have to admit Hitler’s fiery speeches were raising German spirits, which had been down since the end of the World War.

Germany’s economic environment, still plagued with enormous war-related reparations, supported the rise of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party Chancellor.

He took advantage of the brewing economic discontent to find himself at the forefront of a political ideology. National pride, patriotism, Aryan pride, and things like that.

“I don’t think some of that is true,” I said one night after listening to one of his more vitriolic speeches.

“Auch der lieber!” my brother-in-law’s neighbor sneered when he heard me, “Oh, my God! What would a woman know about things like that?” If I had expected to receive any support, the idea quickly vanished as I surveyed the open stares of others in the room.

© Ron Herron

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What Do You Think?
Is this something likely to grab your interest and make you want to know what happens next?

Leave a comment.

Don’t worry about hurting my feelings. Decades ago, long before the digital age, I once sold encyclopedias door-to-door. What can you possibly say to me I haven’t already heard?

* * * * *

My novel “Blood Lake”, a Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner and a ForeWord Indie Finalist, was also named a 2018 Book-of-the-Year Finalist by TopShelf Magazine. At the end of December I learned they named it Number One in the horror category!

* * * * *

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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