I have been thinking a lot about voice lately. The first time I heard the term in reference to writing, well I didn’t really comprehend it. I tried, and thought I did, but looking back now, I know I didn’t.
Once upon a time I used to be Fantasy snob. That was all I read. Ever. It gets worse. I used to only like the Hero’s journey stories with Magic! No assassins. Absolutely none. And then I tried out an Assassin book, and was shocked at my deep love for it. Then I went searching for more, and found Robin Hobb.
While I have a bookshelf full of Fantasy, starting to creep in and be ever more present is YA. Lots of it. I have read more YA this past year than I had read when I was a teenager. (Also when I was a teen, which really wasn’t that long ago, I can assure you, they did not have YA like they do now. We had our series, Babbysitters club, Sweet Valley High, Romance series, RL Stine… well you get the picture.)
Now you may be asking, what does this all have to do with voice? What you read really helps in how you define voice.
Reading YA has really helped define for me what Voice is. In YA it’s the way the protagonist displays their world around them, how it is filtered through their lens of perspective. However in Fantasy, I find the voice has more to do with world building, what to present, what not to present, how this new fantastic world is told, and how not to clobber someone over the head with it. And as you can see in both YA and Fantasy it does have to do with the world and how it is presented, but the way it is done in Fantasy is much different then the way it is done in YA and yet both relate to Voice.
I thought that I wanted to right High Fantasy. Heck I even started and tried and failed miserably. I was too concerned with world building, how things looked, where they went, and got bogged down in really really boring description. My writing felt flat and uninterested. It lacked Voice.
Now that I have switched over to writing YA I find it much much easier to get words on the paper. I put myself firmly in my protagonist’s head and go from there. I see the world through their eyes, what would they notice, what would they not notice. How would they react, how would they not react. Because YA is an infinitely more greedy, self centered way of story telling. As is being a teenager, an infinitely more self centered point in a persons life. In YA it is about the person telling the story, not about the world as a whole. Sure there are things that affect the world as a whole, but it is filtered down through this one person and how they deal with it.
This is not to say that I don’t absolutely love Fantasy any longer, it’s just to say that I know it’s not my genre any longer. I still read my favorite authors in Fantasy. But more and more I delve deeper into discovering new authors in YA. As far as my writing goes, I am still trying to work with Fantasy, but I’m doing it from a perspective that works for me. YA – I ❤ you, because you have Voice I can work with.