Friday, April 27, 2012

Guest Blog: "Invisible Voice?" by Maria Forest


Invisible Writing by William Tapply chronicled his discovery that good writing is not about fancy vocabulary words, which only call attention to the author; but conveys information clearly and concisely (with or without adverbs). The punch-line of the article is: The author's father had written thousands of articles for an outdoor magazine and "People thought of [his] father as an expert outdoorsman … nobody seemed to consider him an expert writer.
When I read it in the 1994 Writer's Digest, I thought "Well, cool. Now I have a name for how I like to write." (I didn't know what style was back then, or the fact I even had one.) Up to that point I had taken great pains to make sure my characters had distinct voices, that the exposition (or narrator's voice) was the POV character's voice, and authorial intrusion was eradicated.
And then the plot twisted. The word went out: Agents and editors were looking for authors with a "strong voice". After years of searching, a friend finally gave me an explanation I could wrap my head around: "It's the author putting him/herself on the page so that it's like the author is reading aloud to the reader."
Well, that's not invisible writing.
Indeed it was not. I met a woman in a local writing organization who, after years of writing lots and doing everything an aspiring author needs to, finally got an agent and sold to a couple publishing houses. Yes, a couple pub houses: multi-book, multi-series contracts. She's a talented lady. But I can't read her books. I tried, but just couldn't. Don't get me wrong. The story premise was interesting, and the woman herself is very nice. But I didn't want her voice and quirks and mannerisms in my head while I'm reading. She had a strong voice, which kept me from escaping into the story.
As the epub phenomenon loosens the grip that agents and editors have on writers and authors, I'm once again free to indulge my invisible voice. But I do have to find my own audience....
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Maria Forest lives happily in North Carolina with her husband and two kids (who sometimes pretend to have or be cats, dogs, or birds). She writes urban fantasy, sci-fi, and Christian fiction. Visit her blog.

5 comments:

K.W. McCabe said...

This is really interesting- the first time I've read a real definition of "the strong voice." Good to know- would love more articles on this and the invisible voice! Thanks for posting.

Shelia Bolt Rudesill said...

This is interesting. I like to see some examples of both a strong and an invisible voice side-by-side. A good topic for WMO or potlucks.

Holly Michael said...

Great blog post today. I already subscribed to Maria's blog. I enjoyed this read about strong voices and hadn't thought about it this way. Writing really is an art we must learn to do well. Thanks Maria. Thanks Rick for posting this. Holly Michael

Maria Forest said...

Thank you for your comments! I'm glad each of you got something out of it. Voice, Style, and Invisible Writing are confusing concepts; mashing them all together into "Invisible Voice" can be like reading tea leaves through applesauce. I'm putting together some examples for you!!

mariaforest said...

Hi! I posted a follow-up article on Invisible Voice (with examples) on my blog http://mariaforest.wordpress.com/. Enjoy!!