When you approach the topic of Voice of a novel and how to produce a pleasing Voice for fiction, especially as you revise, I think a helpful attitude is to think of the approaches as a continuum.
The Approach to Voice Continuum
The continuum runs from a Craft Approach (very left-brained, structured craft oriented skills that can be learned ) to an Emotional Approach (very right brained, dig deep into your soul and be yourself).
I’m trying very hard here to think of a name for the second approach that describes it in a fair manner: Gut Approach, Be Yourself Approach, Live Your Character Approach, Dig-Deep Approach. All of those sound faintly derogatory to me and I don’t mean that at all.
Likewise the first approach has equally dissatisfying monikers: Hack Approach, Formula Approach, Grammar-and-Editing Approach.
I don’t even like the right-brained, left-brained approaches, because those have unwelcome connotations, too. It’s just the continuum of ways you can approach Voice from structured to loose.
The problem is that when both extremes get criticism, there’s nothing left and voice becomes that nebulous thing that no one can talk about, they only recognize when they see it. And that isn’t helpful, because it gives writers no way in to make revisions. It gives us no tools, no strategies, no goals.
In other words, I’m going to teach about Voice and Scenes this fall and I need help in deciding how to discuss Voice. I’ve surveyed the land in front of me and see this continuum and how different teachers/writers might fall on that continuum. I just need ways to describe the continuum without choosing sides.
How would YOU describe the ends of the continuum? Which approach do you like? Any books to recommend on how to improve Voice (or Scenes), especially any that definitely take one approach or the other?
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