Finding the Writer’s Voice

by DiAnn Mills, @diannmills

When I was four, my mother took me to my first dancing class. I wanted to watch before I joined in. I didn’t understand that I had to participate to be a part of the class, even if I made a mistake. A writer who wants to develop a unique voice can’t simply read novels, she must write.

Does the subject of voice make you want to run? You’re not alone. Explanations run the gamut from the way a writer pens her prose to bigger-than-life characters who attract us with their view on life. Voice is everything the characters experience and express according to their traits and the writer’s individual style. A writer chooses unpredictable characters, both in actions and in dialogue, and establishes a voice that draws us into the story.

A writer’s voice is her fingerprint, a way for a reader to identify style. It can’t be developed by studying a textbook or taking a writing course. Each writer has a unique way of stringing together words and sentences, a subconscious activity stamped with personal style, word choice, originality, and passion for the project.

We develop our voice over time—by writing, polishing our craft, and knowing our characters. It’s much like our unique conversational style, but with a strong additive: the character’s voice. That means no two characters ever quite sound alike. A strong writer’s voice doesn’t overpower the character, but hooks the reader’s attention and refuses to let go.

I like how Donald Maass describes voice: “not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre…An original. A standout. A voice.”

Your ability to dive into character and create an adventure strengthens your voice. In establishing that voice, weigh each word choice. Is it succinct and descriptive? Use strong verbs and vivid nouns, the ones your character would use. Have you chosen the best word in the character’s voice, one you’re comfortable with? A writer’s genre also influences word choice. A lot to think about, but when you tune out the critics and write the story of your heart with a character you love (or love to hate), voice will be in your fingertips.

I went through several stages of forming my voice while following rules, not following rules, then allowing my writing to morph into my voice. When I concentrated on good writing and put the guidelines into perspective, aside, my voice came.

As Thomas Merton said, “Not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally.”

How have you established a writer’s voice?


High Treason

When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised – and none too happy – when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt. Kord and Monica must quickly put aside inter-agency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit – plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince – or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Find her on the web at www.diannmills.com.

Tracking Story Characters

by DiAnn Mills, @diannmills

Have you ever been working on a novel and realized your method of tracking character relationships looked like a toddler’s art work? My character’s connections to each other and my plot bewildered me. Unless I solved the problem, my readers wouldn’t be able to follow the story.

I needed a character GPS or a book character relationship chart.

The many book character charts offered to writers were . . . massive, confusing, and overwhelming. Arrows, circles, diagrams, boxes, and icons were supposed to solve my crisis. While these methods obviously contained value for some writers, nothing fit the way my brain operated.

In the past when I needed a solution to organize an aspect of my writing, marketing, or promotion, I developed a chart or spreadsheet. My first attempt was hopeless. My techy husband looked at it and offered a better idea: a type of relationship matrix. He researched a simple way for me (and my hero and heroine) to connect my characters by their relationships to each other.

Plotting and initiating twists and turns in my story are now so much easier. I have a visual of my characters’ names, listed both horizontally and vertically, to determine who has a relationship with another. By using a color-coded text, I know who is family, business, personal, stranger, or unknown.

The system has worked so well for me that I wanted to share it with you: https://diannmills.com/temp/RelationshipMatrixTemplate-DiAnnMills.xlsx

Take a look. Let me encourage you to make the chart your own by personalizing it to your mode of working. This is the beauty of creating what we writers need to ensure our books are exciting and professionally written.

What have you designed to make your writing process easier?


High Treason

When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised – and none too happy – when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt. Kord and Monica must quickly put aside inter-agency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit – plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince – or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Find her on the web at www.diannmills.com.

 

Simplifying Writer Research

by DiAnn Mills, @diannmills

Writing and research go hand in hand. Every topic in a novel needs an element of research. If the manuscript isn’t accurate, the reader will recognize the flaw and toss our work aside. If a writer is spot-on, she will be rewarded with good reviews and more readers. Sort of a no-brainer for us writers.

How do we conduct the process effectively and efficiently?

Focus: List what is needed for the writing project in chronological order. This includes plot, culture, setting, dialogue, and characterization.

Develop: What specialty people need to be contacted to ensure reliable information? Determine if an email or phone contact is sufficient or if they can accommodate a face to face meeting.

Map: Where does the writer need to visit for experience and sensory perception? Can the setting be visited at the same time of year as the story?

The following questions and suggestions will help the writer focus, develop, and map out a strategic planand enhance your story for readers.

  1. Visit the area’s chamber of commerce.
  2. Conduct a web search of the area. Some apps will help with this: Google Maps, Google Earth, Weather Bug, or travel sites that can be found via apps or websites.
  3. Take or download more pictures than will ever be needed.
  4. Interview people living in the area. For a historical setting, this also means reading diaries and journals. How has history affected the community?
  5. Listen to how local people talk. Do they use a distinct vocabulary?
  6. What are the community’s values and expectations for life and each other?
  7. What is their diet? How much of their food supply is local?
  8. How is the area governed?
  9. What are the local hotels? Restaurants? What’s featured on the menus? Any daily specials?
  10. What are the sources of entertainment?
  11. How do the residents celebrate holidays?
  12. Does the community have special festivals?
  13. How does the area experience the seasons, and what are average temperatures?
  14. What are the medical concerns? What kind of medical care is available?
  15. In what kinds of homes do they live?
  16. Where do they shop?
  17. How do the people dress?
  18. Do the arts play a vital role in the community?
  19. How do the people view education, sports teams, and favorite colleges?
  20. How do they earn a living?

Other Considerations

  1. If the area is near a national or state park, look for research material in the visitors’ section.
  2. Discover the wildlife and birds of the region.
  3. Locate a map of the area.Visit the local library.
  4. View newspaper archives.
  5. Look for documentaries on the area.
  6. Visit themed or local museums.

When a writer is cognizant of what is needed to make a manuscript zip with authenticity, readers clamor for more.

How do you conduct writing research?

TWEETABLES

Simplifying Writer Research @DiAnnMills @NovelRocket #writing #writingtip http://bit.ly/2fqYSUy

Writing and research go hand in hand.  @DiAnnMills @NovelRocket #writing #writingtip http://bit.ly/2fqYSUy

How do we conduct the process effectively and efficiently? @DiAnnMills @NovelRocket #writing #writingtip http://bit.ly/2fqYSUy

_____________________

High Treason

When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised – and none too happy – when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt.Kord and Monica must quickly put aside inter-agency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit – plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince – or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Find her on the web at www.diannmills.com.

Color Your Writing with Emotion

by DiAnn Mills, @diannmills

Writers are always looking for ways to deepen their writing. That’s who we are and what we do.

We explore the psychology of our characters to add tension and conflict to our projects.

We twist our plots and add dimension to narrative and setting.

When writers use color to establish emotion, the reader is able to experience the actions and reactions on a higher level. Emotions become vivid, and symbolism weaves into the storyline.

Writers, take a look at the following colors and explanations then think about your current writing and how to make your projects more meaningful.

Red is a warm color that causes strong emotions. From warm and comforting to anger and hostility. Red can stimulate the appetite. Now think about your favorite restaurant. Think about these phrases: redneck, red-hot, red-handed, paint the town red or seeing red.

Blue carries a range of emotions from calmness to serenity. Many offices are painted blue because people are more productive in blue rooms. Blue can also mean sadness. Anyone enjoy the blues and a weeping saxophone? Blue Monday? Blue ribbon day. A recent magazine article stated that blue helps a dieter keep her weight in check.

Green symbolizes nature and growth. The color has a calming affect. It’s been proven that those who work in an office painted green have fewer stomach aches. It also can mean wealth, greed, and jealousy. In the 15th century, green represented fertility and wedding dresses were green. Think about that the next time you select a green M&M. What emotions do these spark in you? Green with envy. Greenhorn. A green thumb?

Yellow is often described as cheery and warm. It can also be a color of frustration. More tempers are lost in yellow rooms, and babies tend to cry more in yellow rooms. This is another color that can stimulate the appetite. But what about the coward who’s referred to as yellow? Or a yellow traffic light?

Purple is often associated with royalty, wealth, wisdom, and spirituality. Sometimes it symbolizes arrogance. Remember the book and movie, The Color Purple? The Purple Heart?

Brown is a natural color that invokes a down to earth feeling. However for a person who is isolated on a farm and feels imprisoned, the color brown may be depressing.

Pink is a romance color. It suggests love, femininity, calmness. Some consider it soothing. Are you in the pink? “The very pink of perfection.”

Orange mixes red and yellow to create a warm affect. It means excitement and enthusiasm. Orange is also associated with autumn, the end of the growing season and the entrance into winter.

White signifies purity and innocence. It can also mean spaciousness or a sterile environment. Remember the fairy tale Snow White?

Black
means evil, power, death, or mourning. In the fashion world, it’s used to create a slimming affect, even sophistication. Consider these phrases: Black Death, blackout, black cat, black list, black market, black tie, black belt.

Gray is a mix of black and white, death and life. Gray clouds. Gray moods. What about a gray sea where fishermen brave the seas to provide for their families, but a twist of the weather can mean death?

Understanding color can add emotion and symbolism to your creative process. How can you apply color to your writing?

TWEETABLES
_____________________

High Treason


When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised – and none too happy – when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt.

Kord and Monica must quickly put aside inter-agency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit – plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince – or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Find her on the web at www.diannmills.com.