And we’re back to voice again. I know, it seems like I only recently had a ponder about it on here. But tonight in class we looked at points of view and did a lot of workshopping on voice. I don’t feel bad about blogging on the subject twice, because authentic voice is so important in any fiction.
It tied my day together quite nicely, as just before class I had been to a book launch of Things A Map Won’t Show You which is a wonderful new collection of short stories that offer up a wonderful view of Australia as it is now. There is an immediacy to this book, and certainly a passion from all of those involved in collecting works with authentic voices that really speak to a contemporary audience. I’ve only dipped into other people’s copies as yet, but I hope to get myself a copy soon and you can expect a review as soon as I do.
So, back to faber. We started out by looking at some examples of strong voices in the opening paragraphs of children’s books (including Isobelle Carmody, Gillian Rubinstein, and Roald Dahl among others). It’s extraordinary to read work by authors who are so familiar, but really paying attention to the voice. The fact that it isn’t something that you immediately notice is a testament to how easy really great writers make it look. Without even trying, you feel like you know the character you are reading about. Surely as writers it’s that realism that we’re trying to achieve.
We did a range of exercises so I’ve just picked one. The exercise was to choose a despicable character (fictional or real) and write a piece showing them doing something good (or at least making us understand/feel sympathetic towards them).
I watch her eyes widen and close as she lets go of the tourniquet around her upper arm. She looks at me. It takes her a moment to realise who I am.
“Are you ok?” I ask, feeling stupid even as I say the words.
She nods, slowly, running her tongue over her bottom lip.
She tries to speak but her mouth is too dry. Swallows noisily.
“Your turn?” she offers.
“No” I shake my head. “I need to stay straight to look after you.”
She gazes around the stairwell. I should never have done this. Never have listened to her demands. I’d always kept her separate, making sure I did deals when she was at school. Never leaving my shit out when she came over. For all her black hair and smudged eyeliner, she was a softie. And that’s why I loved her.
I didn’t know what to do when she’d told me he was dead, felt my heart stop when she told me that she’d have to go and live in Queensland with her mum. Her voice was so husky from crying. I couldn’t say no. Never could.
Depressing I know. Never know what’s going to come out of hot writing.