Starting a Novel with Voice

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I’m still looking for a way into a new novel. So, here’s my plan for today: experiment with voice.

Starting with Voice

I’m reading Finding Your Writer’s Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall. While I don’t like every exercise they suggest, there are some interesting ones.

For my purposes today, Chapter 25 is entitled, “Working with Short Forms to Discover Your Story.” They suggest you write a short piece, just a paragraph or two, each emphasizing a different aspect: character, plot, images, or tone. This should tell me/might tell me what sort of approach to use to the novel I’m planning.

  • For voice, they give an example from Sandra Cisnernos’, House on Mango Street, talking about a Hispanic neighborhood entirely from a character’s viewpoint. “Those who don’t know any better come into our neighborhood scared.”
  • For plot, there’s a short story by Augusto Monterroso and a prose poem from Danhil Kharms, which they describe as a “tiny Russian novel in a paragraph.” “Once Orlov ate too many ground peas and died.”
  • Short examples of prose imagery from Portugese writer Ana Hatherly are called “tisanas” and feature outlandish imagery that takes surprising leaps. “Once upon a time there was a landscape where there were never any clouds. To make it rain it was necessary to wash the horizon with feathers. (from Tisana #87)
  • For tone, they offer a paragraph from David Ignatow called, “I’m a Depressed Poem.” “You are reading me now and thanks.”

It is interesting to see how the voice of each of these is dominated by what interests the writer the most.

Actually–I have two or three ideas for a new novel, so I may do this for each of the ideas, and see what voice emerges that excites me.

Starting a new novel is hard work!

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1 Comment
  • Janni
    May 11, 2008

    Voice seems to be my favorite way to start a novel. And the way my process works, without voice I can only get so far before I need to find it, one way or another.