Monday, May 28, 2012

Is distinctive voice always a good thing?

Obnoxious Distinctive Pinkie Pie
The other day, I talked about books that hooked me from page one. Why did they hook me? The same reason, every time: Voice. A well developed voice (be it author or narrator) is what grips the reader from the first paragraph and refuses to let go. Which of course is why authors crave it and why agents scream for it.

Voice is great. Distinctive voice, better. Really distinctive voice, best. Right?

From a reader's perspective I'd argue: not always.

Voice can be an instant turn-off for me. Particularly narrator voice. If I find a main character annoying, chances are I'm simply never going to like the book. In fact, I'm probably going to put it down right then and there. If I do keep going because I feel I have to, it's going to feel ... like I have to. It was that beautiful-much-sought-after-by-writers distinctive voice which suddenly made reading a chore. By developing an (overly?) distinctive voice for the main character, the author narrowed the audience for their book, excluding me. In that case, I'd much rather read a book with less voice, but killer characters, premise, and plot. But maybe I'm crazy?!?

What do you think about voice? Is distinctive voice always a good thing?
Can voice land you an agent, but limit your audience?


  1. I always struggle with this very issue whenever I try and start writing a series. Trying to find the appropriate voice is very difficult to do. You are so right that distinctive voices could make or break a book. And the worst thing is that there is no magic formula. Sometimes a voice can hook you in straight away but other times, authors use gimmicky stuff to try and create a unique voice that ends up alienating a whole bunch of people. I've just ended up deciding that I'll write in a voice that's convincing to me and hope that others are receptive to it as well.

  2. I think no matter how distinctive and well written your character's voice is, there will always be someone who won't like it. So I'm not sure I think there's such a thing as a voice being too distinctive, just different reader tastes :)

  3. Sometimes a really distinctive voice can seem to be a gimmick, or a strain to maintain throughout a novel. For me, the voice is decided by the first sentence (and that includes viewpoint and tense). My only hope is that my characters/stories are distinctive from each other.

  4. Unless done really well, I'm not a fan of distinctive voice. It just...I don't know...restricts the story far too much for my likes. Does that make sense?

  5. This is a great point: with a distinctive voice, people are going to either really connect with it or really...not. Great post!

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  6. Voice can be really annoying, especially if a person isn't used to first-person novels. I couldn't stand the Dresden Files, mainly because of the voice.

    Also, alliterations. They drive me batty.

  7. I think voice is the most important thing about narratives.

  8. I think voice can be brilliant, and make the book - like Courtney Summers' CRACKED UP TO BE. Parker was hard-ass, and hurting so badly, and she really got that across. But sometimes voice can be overdone, like the sarcastic-just-because narrator that I hate. x

  9. I agree with you on this--I have been turned off by books where the voice is so dry I feel like I'm literally dehydrated. Or where the snark is so over-done that it makes me cringe! It's tough, but I hate reading something that I feel like I have to FORCE myself to read--takes all the fun out of it!

  10. I think for the most part, I like a distinctive voice. I'm also not a fan of whiny characters but I appreciate consistent stylized writing from an author. I think the voice is essential for differentiating between types and styles of narrative, otherwise we would all just be reading the same thing and everything would read the same way, no?
    Nice article :)

    annd on that note, miss carissa, I've nominated you on my blog for the Liebster Blog Award. your blog is one of my favorites to browse.

    have a great weekend!

  11. Hello Carissa,

    "I'd much rather read a book with less voice, but killer characters, premise, and plot."
    This is the most important part. Even the best voice in the world is pointless without the three essentials that you named.

    Do you accept books from self-published authors for review? Thanks. Kea



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