Despite the fact that I have been telling stories for as long as I can remember, I still feel like a novice when it comes to the craft of writing. As a voracious reader, I try to surround myself with books written by by talented writers that unknowingly do a great job of keeping me humble. When I want to experience beautiful language, I read Catherynne Valente or Margo Lanagan (seriously, why don’t more people read Margo Lanagan here in the US?). Expansive worldbuilding goes to Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series. Unique magic systems are Brandon Sanderson’s forte. Brilliant action sequences? James SA Corey, or Jim Butcher. And although I may never be good at creating compelling characters as Lois McMaster Bujold, or delivering jokes like John Scalzi, at least I will always be pushing myself to be better.
The area I’ve been working on a lot lately is voice. Some of the most uncomfortably direct criticism I’ve had with my work has to do with the fact that my first person narration completely lacked personality. The worst part about that criticism? In that instance, they were 100% right. As a result, the third person limited perspective has become my security blanket, and while there’s nothing wrong with that POV, writers who never push themselves, never get any better. Fortunately, the best place to experiment with the new is in short fiction.
Over the past two months, when I haven’t been editing LD2, I’ve been working on a couple stories where I have attempted to create a distinct and consistent voice for my first person protagonists. The first one took a sassy, confident urban fantasy style heroine and plucked her down into a traditional fantasy setting. The second, which I’ve just begun this week, takes a tough minded, undereducated adolescent girl who openly calls herself “heartless.” Each perspective has provided plenty of challenges. When it came to my urban fantasy-style heroine, I was always worried about her coming across as abrasive, or too modern for my setting. When it cane to my younger lead, I had to be worry about stereotyping based on class. As I’ve learned throughout my life, there are many different types of intelligence. Just because someone doesn’t see the point of correcting her double negatives doesn’t mean that she lacks smarts in other areas,
The second story is far from done, but the one thing I’m the most happy about is each character clearly has a different voice. If all of your protagonists sound alike, then that’s a big problem. I’m not sure if anything will come out of these stories, but I know that I’ve already learned a lot from writing them. I hope this is a sign that I am on the road to correcting this fault of mine.