A Story’s Voice
I have just finished reading a novel.
I shall not reveal which, or who the author was, because I shall be telling of a certain dislike within the pages of that book. I will say that this was the first book of hers that I have read and overall I quite enjoyed the story. But there was one thing that really annoyed me, and that ‘thing’ has taken the shine off a pretty good read.
I shall reveal what that ‘one thing’ was a little later, because firstly I need to explain the premise of this Rambling.
As you will know I am a writer, and like most writers I like to read. I like to read good stories, be it a short story, a novella, or a full blown heavyweight novel.
What I find most enjoyable is a book that speaks to me, a story with a captivating voice. I am not talking about audio-books, I am speaking of the written word.
You may then ask, how can a book talk? So I shall, in my bumbling, haphazard way endeavour to explain.
When, for instance, you open a fresh new book, and cast your eyes over those first few lines, you start to create a ‘voice’ in your head, a voice that will tell you the story which is printed upon those pages.
Without becoming too technical, that silent voice you hear, the voice that is only audible from inside your own mind, is what we writers term as narration.
Simply put it is rather like listening to someone else reading out loud, like your mother may have read you bedtime stories as a child as you lay in bed drifting off to sleep. The only difference is that all this occurs solely within your own mind.
So when you read it is not the author you are listening to, but an intermediary, an ethereal entity! But this intermediary is not there by chance, it is the craft, the skill of the author who has created this unseen reader.
Please do not confuse narration with style. Most authors have a certain style of writing, of describing their tales. It is the style often reflects the character of the writer. Most writers will admit that much of themselves, and many of their personal experiences, are frequently woven into their works.
Regardless of a writer’s style, the narration can, and most often will alter with each new piece of work, unless it is part of a series when it is important, even critical, to keep the narrative voice continuous.
Some people who are new to writing may not understand the way a reader assimilates the words from a page, and often this is why some struggle to write in a manner that flows smoothly, whilst experienced writers will use a particular form of narration to compliment the piece they working on at that time.
For instance in my short stories, my Flash Fictions, I use a number of various narrative forms which I hope enhance the readers experience of each.
Below are three examples, all written in my ‘style’ yet told with a different narrative ‘voice’.
1, Jumping a Boxcar
The last train.
I was waiting by the rails, backpack on the ground beside my feet.
That backpack was full. Everything I owned was crammed in there. Clothes, razor, soap, two towels, one face flannel, and three books.
That was it. That was the total of my life.
At least regarding material things.
You see, as I stood by the tracks waiting to jump a boxcar to wherever that train was going, I was carrying far more than the contents of that backpack.
She had told me that everything would be alright, that things have a way of working themselves out.
But that takes time, and I knew that I had taken enough of her time already.
Well, two years, seven months, three days and twenty two hours to be precise. During which time I had broken almost every promise I had ever made to her; and that was unfair.
I promised I would look after her, get a good job, earn a decent income, buy her gifts, chocolates, and flowers. That we would have our own place, a nice car. I said I would make her happy, that we would be happy.
That I would never leave.
They were all lies……………………….
2, Life in the Warzone – Yellow Petals
Izdihar came running into the house shouting ‘Mummy, Mummy, look at what I have for you’.
Fellah turned to look at her daughter, who had not stopped running, and deftly caught her in her arms, lifting Izdihar off the ground so there faces were level.
‘You have a beautiful smile for your Mother.
‘No Mummy, I have found you a flower’ said Izdihar, holding out a single closed bud on a green stem. ‘I found it by the wall. I brought it home for you, because I love you Mummy’ she said with pride in her voice.
‘Well then, I thank you my darling. I love you too. But this flower will soon wither and die if we do not find it some water’ said Fellah.
Rummaging about in the kitchen Fellah found a shallow saucer. This would have to suffice thought Fellah. Water was too scarce to be wasting it on flowers, yet she was reluctant to upset her child, so a small amount on the saucer would keep Izdihar happy and allow Fellah to show her appreciation of her daughter’s kindly deed.
Fellah placed the saucer onto the low shelf and dribbled a tiny amount of water into it. Sitting at the table with Izdihar, Fallah carefully cut the bud from the stalk and placed it into the water. Fellah did this with a ceremonious flourish that pleased Izdihar, who was grinning from ear to ear with pride, knowing that she had made her Mother happy………………………….
Missy turned the steering wheel sharply, swinging the car violently to a sudden halt in the parking lot. Her lips were pressed together, jaw clenched, supressing the pent up emotion that he had, once again stirred within her. Tears began to dribble down Missy’s tender cheeks.
Why was he like this? He was a man who was so sure, so certain of himself, so controlling, that after all these years one would have thought that he did not need to be such a bully, that he would have no need to be so verbally aggressive and well, downright abusive.
After dropping him at his office Missy had started to drive aggressively, tyres squealing on the tarmac as she pulled away. It was just then that her phone bleeped.
Missy knew instantly who this was. She felt those small tremors jumping in her stomach with her excitement. A pack of wild butterflies suddenly fluttering into the air simultaneously. It was a text message from Anura……………………….
You will see from these examples that while my writing style remains personal to me, the form of narration varies to take into account the feeling, the ambiance and quality, I wish to give each particular story.
If I have done this well, (I do hope I have!), you would of read each of the above in a slightly different tonal voice, and at a differing pace.
That then is my (long winded), but simple explanation of narrative.
I hoped you also recognised the narrative voice I am using now, in this Rambling?
Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to my opening gambit, the book I have just read.
In her book the author has a character who talks really loudly, to indicate this all his speech has been written in capital letters ‘LIKE THESE RIGHT HERE’, which I found distracting in the least, and most patronisingly annoying.
It is quite simple to use the narrative to convey that a character has a loud, booming voice. It is not only disquieting to have the CAPITALS break up a line of text, but I found it interrupted the narratives flow. It made me feel that I was reading rather than ‘living’ the story.
If you are writing please, please, use your skill as a wordsmith to express your characters qualities, personality and temperament, and do not try to draw an image with your text. If I had wanted pictures in my book I would have purchased a comic……Nuff said!
Thank you for reading. I hope you find the contents informative, even useful?
Please take a look at my Flash Fiction & Short Stories at ‘A Little more Fiction’ where you can read many of my works, including the full stories from which the extracts above were taken. Just click on this link http://wp.me/5od8T
© Paul White 2015