Rethinking Voice and Style

The one on the left is voice. The other guy is style.
I wrote the first two chapters of Ghost Fishing, my middle grade boy adventure, a couple of months back then got sidetracked with some other projects. When I returned to it a few weeks ago, I decided I needed to put together a somewhat coherent outline for the events that were to play out in the novel. Each chapter was to be almost its own mini adventure. At the same time, I wanted to ensure my characters were well fleshed out, unique, interesting, and had clear motivations.

While this was going on, I also decided I needed to take a fresh look at the style and voice with which I was going to write the novel. So what if I'd written a couple of chapters I might throw away. I reasoned that these were exploratory in nature. When I began conceptualizing Ghost Fishing, I'd just finished reading the first two novels in The Looking Glass Wars, Frank Beddor's series inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. The fairy-tale voice and style in these novels really struck and inspired me, and that's the direction in which I wanted to take Ghost Fishing. 

But as I began to fill in the details behind my new novel, I began to pay attention to other middle grade fiction. Some of this I read, some of this I listened to in the car. There's really nothing like listening to a good book read by a talented actor or actress. It's a lot of fun. Anyway, it was in these novels that I found other styles that equally inspired me.

Rick Riordan's, The Lost Hero reminded me of what fun I had reading the Percy Jackson novels, and although this novel isn't written in first person POV like the Percy novels, the voice and humor are all there. Eoin Colfer's, The Eternity Code, and Artemis Fowl novel, dished out the joy, cleverness, outlandishness and laughs, while sticking to third person, omniscient. Both novels share pacing, humor and heart, even though their voices are entirely different.

I dug into Will Hobbs' Ghost Canoe because, well, my novel is entitled Ghost Fishing, so I had to see what this was all about. It shares nothing with my novel or the two above. It's historical middle grade, has quite a lot of fishing, and the tone is pretty much straight forward boy adventure that reminds me of some of the novels of my very early youth. I gave Michael Spradlin's, The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail a shot. This is middle grade adventure set in the middle ages, but told in first person POV, which seemed kind of unique for something set so long ago.

Having read each of the above, I began to lean back toward what I enjoy reading most -- a fast-paced story laced with humor, told in perhaps first person POV or third person limited. The third person limited buys me the ability to get a bit deeper in other characters' heads, and there is one character in Ghost Fishing -- the impact character -- into whose head I wouldn't mind dipping. On the other hand, the benefit of staying in first person with my main character is that I can keep the impact character's story a bit more mysterious for a while.

As for the fairy tale style, I'm somewhat afraid I won't be able to carry off the style with as much humor and snappy pacing as I'd like. However, I've returned to the third book in The Looking Glass Wars series, ArchEnemy to see what inspired me to go with the fairy tale approach in the first place. Maybe I'll change my mind back again. I plan on wrapping up my initial outlining this week and jump back to the writing next week.

Oh, and for those organic writers out there -- you know who you are -- I'm not outlining the entire novel from front to back. Yes, I've done a fair bit of work on characters, overarching plot, and motivations, but my chapter outline only goes about five or six out. I like to map out where I'm going for a period of time so I can simply drive without worrying if I'm headed in the right direction. Then I'll reach a rest stop, where I'll map out the next part of the journey before I get back behind the wheel.


Kristan said...

Love the rest stop analogy.

Personally I like to have the whole journey mapped out (city to city, though not necessarily every exact road) BUT I think the key to writing is figuring out how much plotting, or winging it, you want to do. There is no wrong way!

Good luck with Ghost Fishing. It sounds like a really intriguing story, and perfect for both the market and the target audience. :)

Jay said...

Thanks for dropping by, Kristan. You are always so reassuring!