Wednesday, July 14, 2010

That Elusive 'Voice'

I've often been mystified WTF agents really mean when they talk about "voice" in a novel, especially when all they've given your book is a superficial two-page read.  But I've been re-reading The Catcher in the Rye--the last time I read it was the summer between high school and first year of college--and there's no mistaking Holden Caulfield's--J.D. Salinger's--distinctive "voice."  So I suppose I get it a little now.

More important, I'm loving reading it.  I don't remember liking it that much when I first read it.  But it's hysterically funny.

8 comments:

  1. I, too, used to wonder if this "voice" thing was some kind of code word. Then I realized that what agents were talking about what was I would have called the "sensibility" of the narrator. How does the narrator take in the world and process what he/she sees? I think people confuse what voice is with the way the characters actually speak or something. Especially if the story is told in first person.

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  2. I wasn't crazy about the story of CITR but I loved the voice. Voice can really save a book from sucking IMO.

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  3. I love this book. I agree....no mistaken his voice. According to my last rejection, my voice sucks. Yet, another agent loved my voice. WTH?

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  4. The Voice is the individuality of the writer, the calling card. It's what sets one writer apart from the pack. There are writers that you would know from the first line of their work.
    Does your work have a distinctive Voice that lets the reader know you wrote it? Or does it blend in with scores of other books, dull and generic?
    The Voice can make a book great.

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  5. My book is written with an Irish tenor voice.

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  6. I agree that Catcher was one of the first novels with use of "voice." Now it's almost a given {read: expected). I don't think it's as vital in every genre but I write YA and most agents and publishers will say that voice is paramount to everything in YA. Gulp. To me, I define it as the character's voice, not the writers. When I read a book with good voice, I feel like I can actually "hear" it, if that makes sense?

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  7. Phil hit it on the head with the comment voice = sensibility. People talk all day long about how writers have to work on "craft" issues, but it's the writer's sensibilities that will attract readers.

    Agoraphob, because "voice" is so highly personal (some will "get" Holden Caulfield, others will be put off by him), it makes sense to me that some agents will love your voice, while others will not.

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  8. Now appearing on my TBRR (to-be-re-read) list, thanks to Travener.

    I was always a fan of Holden Caufield. Now, I'm a huge fan of the NAME Holden. Alas, hubs is not. No little Holden Murphy for me... if I do make a little boy.

    ps. I missed you while I was gettin' all beachy.

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