Today on Mystery Mondays we welcome Canadian author Kathy Prairie. This is a special week for Kathy. Her novel, THIRST, is now available for pre-order and the official launch is February 18th. Yup, That’s this Thursday.
I’m thrilled to be part of Kathy’s launch and to have her share her writing advice on “inner voices.”
“With compelling characters and an extraordinary setting, THIRST is a fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last word.” – R.J. Harlick, author of the popular Meg Harris mystery series
That’s just a teaser for now. The description of THIRST is as the bottom of the blog.
So on to Kathy and her advice on finding your inner voice…
INNER VOICES by Kathy Prairie
I’m delighted to join a fellow B.C. author today – thanks for the invitation, Kristina.
I’ve heard the advice “find your voice” at almost every writing workshop I’ve attended and while the concept seemed simple enough, trying to achieve it has been anything but. So today I’d like to share the three elements that were key to finding my voice: characters, perspective and style.
First a simple defintion of voice: It’s your signature, your way of telling a story. But I think it’s also that sweet spot where your sentences flow with ease and your characters come to life. If you find that spot you’re sharing your personality with your readers and your writing will be as unique as a fingerprint.
I’d suggest that you start with your characters because they tell your story. In our lifetimes we probably meet thousands of people and no two of the them are exactly the same and your characters should be unique too. There are many decisions here including gender, profession, physical appearance, personality and motivations and it can be tough! I’ve heard much advice about writing what you know, but I believe it’s more important to write about what interests you.
I’m fascinated by science and intrigued by politics and through my geologist Alex Graham, I’m able to weave these elements into my stories. She’s an interesting character to me, someone I’d like to know in real life and I look forward to writing more stories about her. Ask yourself what kind of personalities most interest you. Are you intrigued by the psychology of the criminal mind or the intellect of the puzzle-solving detective? If you follow your passion, you’ll create memorable characters and perhaps find a protagonist you love enough to include in another book.
Next focus on how your characters will tell their story. First person proved the most challenging for me, but I liked the resulting scenes. Omniscient on the other hand, never really felt right because of its impersonal nature. But limited third person felt right from the start because my story flowed effortlessly through each character’s viewpoint.
You might find that you naturally gravitate towards first person, omniscient or third person but it’s worth exploring each of them fully. A simple change from “she” to “I” can profoundly affect your scenes and I found that my style, the dialogue, the details – everything shifted as I moved from one perspective to another. I wrote three complete scenes in each perspective before finally deciding on third person and even now when I’m having trouble with a particular scene, I’ll switch to first person because it changes how I see the scene and often identifies the problem.
Once you’ve decided on perspective and characters it all comes down to how you tell your story. If you allow your characters to guide you, you may find that your style develops naturally. For example, a hard-boiled detective would tell a story differently than a twelve-year-old girl.
The nature of your sentences – smooth, choppy, long, short. The kind of language you use – gritty, soft. The level of description – too many adjectives, too few, too flowery, too blunt. All of these elements contribute to your unique writing style and you need to find what suits you best. I’ve found that some of the most interesting authors break the grammar rules, so go ahead and explore. Don’t get me wrong, your story has to be readable and you should never ignore the good advice of your editor, but you also don’t need to sound exactly like everyone else.
How you paint a scene or describe a character is equally important. Some authors include few details while others write long descriptions and especially if you’re a new author, you’ll likely favour one extreme or the other. Read your favourite authors. Do you skip over the details or read every word? You probably won’t feel any more comfortable writing loads of description if you don’t like to read it. But your challenge is to balance your natural writing style against the reader’s need for detail. Push beyond your comfort zone here and add a little more descriptive detail as you write, and vice-versa and you may find your answer.
Through characters, perspective and style I finally feel that I’ve found my voice and focusing on these elements might also work for you. Your voice will evolve over time as your writing matures – I’ve seen that happen already in my own work – but your overall approach should stay steady. And if you stay true to your personality your voice is guaranteed to be unique!
Katherine, a geologist and IT specialist, stepped away from the international petroleum industry to follow her passion for writing. An avid traveller with an insatiable curiosity, you never know where you’ll find her next! But most days, she’s in Vancouver, Canada quietly plotting murder and mayhem under the watchful eye of a cat. She is an award-winning presenter and the author of the thriller THIRST.
Science. Politics. Deadly Intent.
Deep in a Columbia River valley rocked by violence and tightly controlled by a U.S.-Canada military force, geologist Alex Graham is on the hunt for silver. Her plans are derailed when she joins the search for a suspected toxic spill as the victim count rises. But the lethal contamination is no accident.