Monday, 10 May 2010

Style v voice

Someone in the audience on Friday night asked if authors read books. I have heard authors say they won’t read in their own genre because they fear losing their voice, perhaps picking up another’s style. (I used to wonder what the difference was between style and voice. I’ve since discovered that readers and aspiring writers talk of style while agents use the term voice. They are often used to mean the same thing, but a good distinction is this: style is choosing words to fit character, genre and the effect the author requires. Voice is the author’s natural use of language to create the characters and story. Lyon)

I read widely in the historical genre, along with whatever interests me at the time, and I think it does me more good than harm. Perhaps I have become a little more critical of the writing, in that I pause now and then to admire, or wonder why a piece of writing does not give me the pleasure I expect.

It would be wrong of me to list books in either category, but we all know we like some things more than others. I have recently put aside a novel with a blurb that talks of stunning Regency romance by a best selling NY Times bestselling author. I picked it up last night and began to read. Then kept stuttering to a halt, and asking myself why….my feathers were very early ruffled ~ right beneath Chapter One, I was told the setting was London, Winter, 1848. Now to my mind 1848 is not Regency, but nearly thirty years later. Flipped back to re-read the blurb, where I note that it does not actually say this particular book is one of the stunning Regency series. A trap into which this unwary reader fell with an alarming thump.

That Winter tag began to irritate, for it could indicate any of seven months between October and April. The character names sounded, to my ear (perhaps uninformed, and I’d be the first to admit it, but then I’m the reader here) so un-English, particularly un-Victorian English. The dialogue and descriptions are also off-key somehow. I cannot rid myself of the feeling that I am reading of modern day Americans plonked down willy-nilly in a London that says it is 1848 but gives me no feeling for such a place and time. The lack of grounding intruded between me and the story until I sighed and put the book aside. I won’t go back to it.
In case you're wondering, the pic is of me dressed to go to the author panel. I finally shed my sweats for an hour or two! Yay!


Helen Ginger said...

I don't know if I would have been bothered by that book because I probably wouldn't have been aware of the discrepancies. But I can certainly see why you were! When I read, if something pops up to bump me out of the book, it's difficult to get back into it.

Straight From Hel

Sarah Callejo said...

I find that very enlightening. I thought style and voice were the same. Now I'll know when to use one or the other.