Finding the proper voice for your novel can be a challenge, particularly if you are stretching your skills and jumping into a genre that you don’t typically write in. This is the issue I’m facing right now with Withered World, a Dystopian story, rife with Fantasy elements.
Fantasy isn’t the problem. I read tons of fantasy growing up and still indulge today. It’s the youthful, angry teenage, dystopian voice I’m having trouble grabbing onto. I tried, unsuccessfully, to make my narrator a bit older because I hate writing about children and teenagers. But, my main character and narrator, a 17-year-old named Vea, came out as a teenager. Okay fine. I can make this work. Right? Maybe…
Since I write in the first person, I now have to age down the language of the narration so that it suits her personality and fits her circumstances. Writing from the perspective of a farm girl with minimal education, means I need to get rid of most words that are longer than 2 syllables. The problem is, I like big words. I like descriptive words. I love the musicality of them, the meaning. Everything. But, it doesn’t suit the character. And yet, I don’t want to lose the complex and beautiful images that are the hallmarks of my writing. But still, I must find a way to satisfy and reconcile these issues.
This translates to big problems. I have an entire novel that needs to be converted. The prospect of doing this has been a bit daunting, so for the past few weeks, I’ve been skirting around my writing. It’s only been in the past week that I have really started to work. Slowly, I’m making my way through the novel. Currently, I’m working on chapter two, so that’s progress. I’m transforming the dialogue so it’s more real and altering the voice of the narration to better fit the narrator.
What has helped in this struggle? A couple of things.
I spent a good portion of the month of April reading books recommended to me by a woman in my writer’s group that fit the bill as far as narration style, voice, and character age are concerned (and is totally in stride with my last blog post about being a reader to be a writer). I read the following: “For Darkness Shows the Stars” by Diane Peterfreund, (I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVED this book.), “Wither” by Lauren DeStefano, and “Winter Rose” by Patricia McKillip. Each book brought me a little something different, but helped to ground me a little better and direct me in what I’m trying to do.
Next, I’m now binge-watching the ShadowHunters series based on the books by Cassandra Clare. I’ve read the books, but watching the characters interact and paying closer attention to their dialogue has been helpful as I try to pull out Vea’s voice from beneath my highly Gothic/Victorian tendencies. Clary Fray is an exhaustively emotional character. I never truly realized this until I watched her played out on-screen. Watching someone act that out has been helpful as Vea is a pretty emotional person as well, though she exudes anger more than anything else.
When you feel yourself in a bind, reaching out to your circle and finding new ways to connect with characters and stories might be helpful, especially if you’re still striving for the perfect voice for your story. Getting back to the basics and reading stories that fit the bill can be really useful (and sometimes watching movies/tv that showcase characters in the proper age group can help too!). We’ll see how things go. I’m hoping to finish this next edit before the end of May. Let’s do this!