Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Developing Voice

About eight years ago I was looking for a local SCBWI group to join. When I discovered that there wasn’t one in my area, I emailed the SCBWI listserv for my state and started one. The group is a small but supportive group of writers, many of whom are published or are on the cusp of becoming published. Because we are small, we are always on the lookout for speakers for the meetings and often rely on our members to give a presentation or two. When I heard that one of our newer members, Dee Garretson had her first Middle Grade novel coming out in August, I naturally ambushed her and asked her to speak to the group. She graciously agreed. She spoke at our April meeting and was amazing.

Dee talked about her road to publication as we tend to ask each speaker to discuss. It’s interesting to hear the different path each writer seems to take as few paths are exactly the same.

Dee also gave a great presentation on Voice. She began by defining the three different types of Voice.

-Author Voice: Relates directly to the overall writing style.

-Grammar Voice: Passive v. Active voice

        Passive: The dog was bitten by the boy.
        Active: The boy bit the dog.

-Narrative Voice: Narrative Voice draws the reader in and brings the story alive. Writing in 1st person or close limited 3rd person are the easiest ways to develop a good narrative voice. In Close limited 3rd person,
the world is seen through the character’s eyes. This should not be confused with Limited 3rd, which has a more distance- still through a character’s eyes, but it reads more like a narrator is telling the story.

When developing the narrative voice, word choices are very important. Word choices start with character development, in particular reactions and observations.

“I felt a drop of sweat trickle down my side like a spider and disappear into the waistband of my itchy brand-new suit pants, which I hoped never to wear again.” (excerpted from Roland Smith’s book, I.Q.)

When you introduce other characters, put their descriptions in terms of the main character’s perceptions. What does the character think is important. Dee warned that description can trip up voice because characters-especially kids won't describe everything. She listed some examples from books that really used a good narrative voice.
      Example: "She was German and made brilliant meatballs" (from GIDEON, THE CUTPURSE by Linda

Description of Places: "The fog hung over Booker Mountain like an old ragged coat." (from Cinda Williams
                                    Chima, The Dragon Heir).

Dialogue: "He ain't regular sick. He's been devastated." (A SHORT HISTORY OF A SMALL PLACE).

Like I said the presentation was amazing, so much so we are continuing our discussion on Voice this month.

Dee's book is entitled: Wildfire Run and is due out August 31st, 2010. It definitely deserves a read! Her website is: and she blogs at



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