Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Voice – What Is It?

on January 24, 2014

VoiceThe challenges went well, though I did let some of my weekly goals lapse a bit. I never did get back to my novel or my nonfiction book. I would like to share how the challenges fit together and furthered my quest for perfect stories.

Jan. 12 to 18 was Meg Miller’s ReviMo (http://www.megmillerwrites.blogspot.com/) and the first full week of the forum for 12×12 in 2014 (www.juliehedlund.com/12-x-12/). Combining these two was such a natural fit, it was a little scary.

Start the Year Off Write 2014 (www.shannonabercrombie/my-blog/) has been a blast. And I love how the prompts provided by the guest bloggers have made for some fresh ideas. I highly recommend any writing prompts you can find.

This week, I’ve had a dastardly chest cold and have not been as productive as I’d like.

The one thing I seem to need to work on the most is my picture voice. “What is voice,” you ask. Ah, that is the $64,000 Question. Voice is what I lost with my cold. Haha.

Ask even a veteran writer, editor, or agent what voice is and you will get, first, a blank stare. Then you get a statement like “I don’t know, but I know a good voice when I hear one.” Then you’ll get attempts at explaining it through examples. Seriously.

The closest the dictionary comes to an explanation is “a range of sounds distinctive to one person.” That’s a start, I guess. But it’s so much more than that. And I’ll let you know when I find mine.

The general public seems to have the idea that writing picture books is easy. Get an idea. Write it down. Fine, but good luck getting children to listen to it or read it. I’m full of ideas. Heck, I’m even full of imagination and humor, but putting that on a page is one of the most difficult undertakings ever. My humor tends to come out cynical and more than a little off the wall. Okay, off the wall might work, but kids won’t get the cynicism.

So, how do we solve this myriad of problems. Mostly by word choice. I’m not, in any way, suggesting that we need to talk down to kids. In fact, I never once talked down to my children. What I am suggesting is that you have to engage your audience. (I’m not convinced that children have shorter attention spans. They’re just interested in different things than adults. Some adults have NO attention spans.) If you can engage children with six-syllable words (discombobulated comes to mind), all the more power to you.

The most important thing: show don’t tell. One of my current sentences reads:

Made no sense the sandwich delivery guy never came inside with the bags.

Okay, that’s a little telling. How about:

When the delivery guy arrived, Robbie woofed his best play bark. Why did the guy drop the sandwiches and run? Silly guy.

Better, but I almost doubled the number of words, so there must be a better way. But that’s what I’m talking about. It’s a constant search for the right combination of words to get the point across while your audience is still awake. And if you think that’s easy, …

Here’s to finding your voice!

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One response to “Voice – What Is It?

  1. Sue Peters says:

    You put your finger on the most difficult aspect of writing – to me anyway. Look forward to hearing more or your insignts.

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