Week of January 13, 2013: Painting with Words
Monday, January 14—Voice
I would say no child who reads or listens to a picture book says, “Oh, I love the
voice of the author in that book.” Most of the people reading to them wouldn’t
have a clue what voice is either. Editors and agents talk about voice a lot, however.
Though if you ask any four editors or agents to define voice, and you’ll probably
get four totally different answers. That’s because voice is hard to pin down. Most great
authors probably never give/gave voice a second thought. The voice of their
writing is/was the natural style that comes/came out while writing. . . almost
But not all of us have been blessed with that intuitive ability to create strong voice
in our writing. To many, voice is an elusive concept. That’s why you’ll find so
many articles, seminars, and blog posts on the subject. But voice needn’t be intuitive
or elusive—it can be learned.
Joyce Sweeney defines voice as “the entire way a writer uses language.” If we use
that as our working definition, then it means if we focus on elements of our
language usage (for instance: tone, diction, detail, imagery, and syntax) our writing
can sing out with our voice. Though all authors use the same language
components, our voices can still be unique and strong because no two writers will
use the components of language in the same way.
Read Owl Moon and you’ll hear Jane Yolen’s voice in the pacing, the exquisite
word choice, the details, and the imagery. Read Avalanche Annie: A Not-So-Tall
Tale by Lisa Wheeler and hear her voice in the rhyme, the rhythm, and the made
up vocabulary. Read Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester L. Laminack and hear his
voice through repetition, sensory details, specific details, and dialogue. Read Cat
Secrets by Jef Czekaj and hear his voice through the snarky humor, dialogue, and
pacing. Each one completely different than the other, each with a solid,
distinguishable, recognizable voice.
For You To Do:
Today reread one or two of your favorite picture books by your favorite picture
book author(s). Identify what is making that author’s voice unique and strong.