Writers (and writing advisors) like to talk about voice.
“You must find your voice,” they say.
I hear it so often that it must be true. I can think of a couple of authors that have an identifiable voice. Cormac McCarthy. Kurt Vonnegut. I might be able to identify their writing in a random setting. I just looked up and down my bookcase to see if anybody else jumped out at me. Lots of good storytelling on those shelves, but not necessarily a strong authorial voice.
Here’s another spin on the idea of voice that might be more important than the author’s voice – the characters’ voices. In the hands of a good writer, the characters in the story will all sound a little different. And I’m not talking about exaggerated regional (hillbilly/southern/yankee) dialect. I’m not a fan of dropping (droppin’) the g off words or having your character say bar when, in fact, it’s a bear chasing him. It’s more subtle than that.
It’s in the pacing. Some people speak slowly, in measured words. Others are rapid fire pontificators. Some use certain words and phrases, you know what I mean? Some are loud, others are low talkers.
Stephen King’s short story, A Death, which was just published in the New Yorker, illustrates this principle. (Although the story is not in his horror genre, it does have a couple of graphic scenes that might spoil your appetite. Don’t read it before eating.) Pay particular attention to the character Trusdale. You can literally (not literally, but almost) hear his voice. Same with Sheriff Barclay. We hear the characters, not Stephen King.
Here’s the story. Enjoy.