An Author’s Voice . . . Innate or Developed? by guest blogger JoAnn Durgin

JoAnn Durgin is the author of the popular contemporary romantic adventures,
Awakening, and its follow-up, Second Time Around, published by
Torn Veil Books. Her third book in the series, Twin Hearts, releases
next month. JoAnn, her husband, Jim, and their three children live in her
native southern Indiana after living in TX, CA, PA and MA. She likes to say
she’s “been around in the nicest sense of the word.” She’s a full-time wealth
administration paralegal in a Louisville, Kentucky, law firm, and is a member
of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Her
books are available at every major online book retailer such as Amazon and
Barnes & Noble, both in paperback and electronic versions. Please visit her
at www.joanndurgin.com
or on Facebook.
NR: JoAnn will give away one copy of
Awakening (Book #1 in The Lewis Legacy Series), one copy of Second Time Around
(Book #2), and one copy of Twin Hearts (it won’t be available in paperback form
to ship until on or after April 1, 2012, but can be sent electronically to the
winner). Leave a comment for her to be entered in the drawing. Continental U.S.
residents only, please.
An Author’s Voice . . . Innate or Developed?
One of the most challenging hurdles for a beginning writer
is finding his or her “voice.” What does “voice” mean, why is it so important
and how is it different from point-of-view? A well-developed “voice” is a
technique used by writers to help a reader “see” the unfolding events in a
story through the eyes of one or more characters. Since an author creates those characters, he or she knows
their family dynamic, background, environment, accomplishments, hopes, dreams, loves,
failures, vulnerabilities and fears. The better the author knows a character,
the more real they will become. An effective voice is a crucial element to keep
the reader turning the pages, and it’s manifested with active (as opposed to
passive) phrasing, dialogue and narrative as it draws them deeper into the fictional
world.
Is an author’s voice like a fingerprint, unique to that one
person? Some suggest it’s innate and writers are “born” with it. Some believe
voice is learned or developed after much practice, trial and error. I don’t
pretend to have all the answers, but it could be a combination of both. Just as
some recording artists are easily identifiable (think Adele, Willie Nelson,
Barbara Streisand), other vocalists’ voices are more generic. Authors should
never be content to simply “blend in” with the crowd; they want to rise above the
rest and shine! But how?
Showing is the best way to illustrate my point, so below are
two examples from my March 2012 release, Twin Hearts (third in The Lewis Legacy Series, but it can stand
on its own):
Example #1: Weaving his way through the room of a
hundred or so women in red hats of all sizes and shapes—pretty much a
reflection of their owners—Josh was a wonder to behold. A number of the ladies
looked at the guys as if they were
dessert, but they smiled and laughed as they went about their task, ignoring the
middle-aged hormones in overdrive. It was as close to swooning as anything
she’d ever seen. Based on all the fanning going on, there were enough hot
flashes in the room to bake a cake.
Example #2: She didn’t want to feel such a strong
attraction for Josh, but her heart and pulse weren’t listening. Don’t look at the eyes. If she repeated
it to herself enough times, would it keep her from succumbing to his charms?
Those eyes had been her undoing before and would be again if she didn’t watch
herself. So much for the self-pep talk. A whole lot of good it did. Why he felt
the need to dress in one of his fancy power suits was beyond her, but then
again, here she sat in a dress costing the equivalent of a monthly car payment
for Ladybug. Hypocrisy was highly overrated sometimes.
Both of the above examples are in the point-of-view of my
heroine. Do you see where her “voice” comes into play? Even without knowing
anything about this character, you get a good sense of who she is, her sense of
humor, her powers of observation, and understand she has a history with Josh.
Look at the last two sentences of each paragraph. Those are my zingers, but
they’re not always at the end of the paragraph. However, writers should always
try to end chapters with a word or a
sentence that will hook the reader into turning the page in order to find out
what happens next. One of the best compliments I ever received is when a reader
said, “I’ve learned to stop reading your books in the middle of the chapter. Once I read the end of a chapter, I have to
keep going.”
As authors, we love reviews describing our books with adjectives
like fresh, innovative, effortless
and engaging. More often than not,
those words are referring to the writer’s voice.
It’s that element of a novel differentiating it from the rest of the crowd which
makes the writing shine, stand out and worthy of attention. Finding one’s
writing voice can sometimes be elusive, and it can become a source of great
frustration. Persevere and don’t allow it to deter you from writing your best. Perhaps
it’s hidden, but I firmly believe a unique voice is within every author, waiting to be discovered and revealed. I’d like to
suggest the following five ways to help discover your voice:
#1: Know your characters from the inside out.
#2: Keep the voice true to the character’s point-of-view. 
#3: Be an observer of people and events, but also the
ironies, humor, tragedies and triumphs of life. It makes you a better writer overall,
but it also helps infuse your characters with personality so they almost leap
off the page—and into the hearts and minds of readers.
#4: Write what you know and write passionately from your soul.
#5: Approach every character and story as if it were your
first or your last. Make them count.
Remember this: even the most innovative plot can be
dead-in-the-water without that well-developed voice. Conversely, even the
dullest, plodding plot can be enthralling if told with a masterful voice.
Thank you for the opportunity to visit with you today, and I
wish all of you God’s best as you read and write. Blessings, my friends. Matthew
5:16

Twin Hearts

Josh Grant is a man seeking redemption. He’s not looking for love, but
finds it in a most unexpected and tender way. His twin sister, Rebekah, is torn
between two very different men: one a dashing British aristocrat offering her
the world, and the other a humble, quiet, faithful Louisiana lumberman. When
family tragedy strikes, the twins lean on Sam and Lexa Lewis and their fellow
TeamWork Missions volunteers for encouragement. Together they learn lessons
in faith and family and what’s most important in life as
they discover it’s time to stake their claim on love, which means a road
trip from Louisiana to . . . the peace to be found in seeking and finding the
sweetest desires of the heart. Available from Torn Veil Books in March 2012 in
both paperback and e-book versions at all major online book
retailers.