Friday, November 5, 2010

Finding the Right Voice -- Don't Show Off

Part of good story-telling is finding the right voice to fit the story. Here's something to bear in mind: please let the language and words serve the story, not the other way around. Don't slaughter story at the altar of your writerly ego. (Oh, I know, it's tempting!)

For me, the best books are where the writer is invisible. Where I'm caught in the story, where wonderful phrases, if there are any, are absolutely integral and true to the story. Where the author isn't pirouetting around with flash phrases that stick out like a sore thumb, shrieking, "Look at me, look at me!" Or leaping about with grandiose phrases, no matter how lovely, with a cheesy, "Look, aren't I clever?"

Beautiful language can only take you so far. After a while, the reader's admiration can ebb into frustration and even downright hostility because instead of engaging with the story, the language sticks out its knobbly feet and demands attention and homage to the author. Perhaps in an attempt to divert attention from the lack of story?

So, don't show off. Let the tale flow, let the tale do its part.

This is not to say that beautiful language is not appropriate at times. But it needs to serve the story, it always needs to serve the story, not the other way around.


Desert the delectable phrases

Eschew the urge to pontificate, with or without marbles in your mouth, no matter how stunning the marbles.

Say it plain.

Say it clear.

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