Been a while since I rambled about writing, but hey. Why not!
People talk a lot about voice. Find your voice. Use your voice. Respect the voice. As an editor, that’s kinda my first rule: I’m not here to do anything but make sure the author is communicating what they mean to communicate in their own, individual voice. I guess it sounds pretentious in a way, but I don’t give a shit, because it’s true. There’s nothing like a writer that, no matter what the story, I can recognize their voice in it.
But here’s where things get tricky, especially if you go in for first person: what about character voice?
Wait, wait, don’t get me wrong, it’s an issue in third too, but I’ll get to that in a second. When you write a lot of first person*, like I do, it makes for paranoia. Just to use the vampire books as an example, since it’s currently relevant, James can’t sound like his big brother Liam. They’re from the same family, they share a lot of history, a lot of traits, even, but they’re opposites in more ways. How disappointing it would be to read Liam and then James and realize: wait, they both just sound like the author. Or worse, Liam and then Madison or Gianni, who really have nothing in common, background-wise.
Ah, that’s why first person’s tricky. It’s not the author telling the story. It’s the character. And yet…
I think about it a lot with the romance novels, too. The superpowered ones are all first person. The first is an econ grad student nerd, the short stories that follow are his post-jock boyfriend, the second is a quiet book shop manager, the third is an everybody-loves-me popular partyboy. This gets even weirder with the next two planned: the fourth is an arrogant, angry young special agent, the fifth is a disenfranchised redneck… who just did a stretch in a federal pen.
They can’t sound like me, and yet, they must in some ways. The only way I can really describe it is like method acting. I try and get into the role. That can fuck with my head because frankly I am not the most stable human being (shock and surprise, I know), but luckily B makes for a fabulous anchor. But it’s a weird ass balance between me and them. When I draft, I surrender to them. Then I wonder, am I fucking it up or making it better when I go back through more objectively a month or two later and fix it up?
Then there’s third person, which is actually what made me think about this today. I guess most of you know by now I tend to do the RP thing. I’ve talked before about how I think that sharpened some of the skills I hold most dear as a writer–so have some of my friends. But today I actually just picked up a new character (for the record: Fantomex–yeah, I’m having a love affair right now, it’s true) and I was like, “Fuck. How does he refer to himself, name-wise?” As in, when I’m writing supertight third person, how do I refer to him? Fantomex, his chosen code-name? Jean-Philippe (the totally fake French name he randomly selected for himself)? Charlie-Cluster 7 (the designation he was given as an experiment–he’s got a Weapon X/Weapon Plus history, yeah)? Wouldn’t be a problem if this was in first person (which all his thoughtboxes in the comics obviously are, so no help there)–how he introduces himself to others depends on where he is and whom he’s with. But this, in his head (in his multiple brains… anyhow…), man. Different story.
Awesome, right? Well, frustrating. But still. Gets the brain going.
What the hell am I talking about? I dunno, I just like talking about this shit, since it’s what I think of all day. How much thought do y’all put into PoV, how do you like to write it–anything on the subject, love to hear it.
*For the record, like most people, my default is third. There’s a reason why I use first when I use first, but that’s another post altogether.