(He’s one of the many voices in my head. And okay, it’s also just a reason to throw a gratuitous picture of Steve Boyd in this post.)
As an author, I find voices to be intriguing. Different authors’ voices, yes, but also all the many voices for characters that an author has inside them. Authors usually have more than one type of character that they write, whether it be the plain, shy heroine or the silent, tortured hero. The sultry seductress or the devil-may-care rake. And that’s just historical. Think of the maniacal villains in romantic suspense, the fun girl-next-door or the hard-working corporate-ladder-climbing woman in contemporaries. The protective, possessive don’t-make-me-get-alpha-on-your-butt paranormal heroes, the hardened-yet-secretly-vulnerable urban fantasy heroines. (Okay, I think I’ll stop with the hyphens. =)
Inside each author are dozens of voices, probably even hundreds of voices waiting to get out. Many romance authors write across sub-genres (for example, I know Shana has written chick lit in addition to historicals, and the contemporary Cate Lord is the alias of historical Catherine Kean). I know that with my own writing process, the books I tend to get the most excited about writing are the books where out of the blue I just hear a character’s voice in my head. It’ll be a line of dialogue made very distinct by the words, yes, but also by the way it’s said. (For example, think of Rhett Butler and “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” That’s so unique to Rhett.) But when I say “voices”, I don’t just mean the things they say, but how they’re revealed through internal narrative as well.
Like other authors, I have several types of voices. Here is the hero from THE SINNING HOUR– Simon Astley, a nude portraitist.
Even here, Miranda was everywhere he looked, her memory his constant companion. He saw her dusting a rag over the gilded frames, reaching high to straighten the drapes. He climbed the grand staircase to the first floor, wondering how she would view his commission by the gaming hell’s owners. She’d doubtless chastise him for entering this den of vice, or look at him with that same silent reprimand she’d given him when he flirted with his models.
Innocent. She was so innocent. And oh, but how he’d longed to corrupt her.
Simon exhaled a jagged breath of laughter, his fists clenching. Discipline forced his fingers apart, urged him to smooth his hand along the stair banister, to admire the gleaming mahogany and the sensuous slide of it beneath his palm. Anything but to dwell on her, to submit to this despair that continued to close in each day without her.
The bolded line above is the essence of Simon to me. In this novella Simon strives to become a better man for Miranda, because that’s what he thinks he has to do in order to deserve her, but no matter how much he tries to reform, he’s still a bad boy at heart.
On the other hand, here is the voice of a heroine from a contemporary romance I’m experimenting with (note the word experimenting =)).
It always started innocently enough.
A quick glance. A smile. “Hi, I’m Kate.”
He might nod, might tell her his name if he felt like being polite. Then, without another word, she’d move in like a porn goddess intent on giving him his happy ending.
Unfortunately, today was no different.
“Ow! That’s hot!”
Kate rubbed more oil into the model’s hairless chest in brisk, efficient strokes. “Sorry,” she muttered. Someday, she’d really like to have a gorgeous man do more than whine when she touched him or grumble when she asked him to turn around so she could massage the oil into his butt cheeks.
As I said above, I’m experimenting with this voice. It might not be the one that I stick with for this heroine or for this book, although I do like the snarkiness. =)
But overall, I love that as an author I’m able to do this kind of experimenting. In fact, I experimented with Simon’s voice in THE SINNING HOUR for a while, trying to find the perfect combination of come-hither wickedness and desperation for his character. Not only do I get to create worlds of fictional people and their love stories, I also get to determine how they sound and, as a result, how a reader will relate to them and picture them in their mind.
This, perhaps, might be my favorite part of writing. It’s empowering, fun, and most of all, I can tell the people who look at me like I’m crazy (*cough* my family *cough*) that the voices really do speak to me.
Do you notice “voices” when you read, whether an author’s voice or a character’s specific voice? Do you have favorite characters from past books who stood out to you because of their voice? (For example, Michael from Julia Quinn’s WHEN HE WAS WICKED is a favorite of mine because of this.)