Sunday, January 27, 2019

Using My Voice

by Brenda Chapman

Question: Have you ever written fan fiction? A pastiche? Tell us about that. If not, did you start out writing derivative fiction before finding your own voice? And you can tell us about that, too.

While I’m not entirely sure what constitutes fan fiction or a pastiche, I am confident in saying that I’ve never written either. As for derivative fiction, which is writing derived from another source, I wrote some poetry in university that could qualify as part of assigned writing exercises. For example, we had to write a poem following the exact structure of a Dylan Thomas poem. Oddly enough, in my latest Stonechild and Rouleau manuscript, I incorporate this same poem into a storyline. The lesson is to never toss anything away …

In my government communications work, I often had to take on the voice of the Department, usually the Minister as I crafted speeches, media lines or information for the public. Other than this official type of writing (which some called creative:-), I used my own voice in fiction-writing albeit through different characters. 

My first published novels were a series of four mysteries for the 10-13 age group. The stories were told through the eyes of my fourteen year old protagonist Jennifer Bannon - a girl struggling with her parents separation, poor grades, wanting to date a boy who has a girlfriend, and oh yes, nasty mysteries to threaten her world. While I was well beyond my teenage years, I could still imagine myself there and Jennifer's voice was essentially my own.

I currently have two series going. The Stonechild and Rouleau books are written in third person with through the eyes of different characters. This allows me some latitude to change up their voices and to experiment with relationships and interactions, but each book is linked by my writing style, which may be developing but is still essentially the same as in all my previous output.

The Anna Sweet novellas are an adult literacy mystery series, written in the first person through the eyes of Anna, an ex-cop PI who has her office in my actual neighbourhood. Anna shops in the same stores I do and drinks at the same pub. She's got my sense of humour and outlook on life even though our lives are nothing like each other's.

One of the hardest publisher questions for marketing purposes has to be: What writer's work does yours most resemble? While I understand the goal is to market an author's books on the coattails of a best-selling author (If you like this, then you'll like mine), I'm always stymied to come up with an answer. After all, isn't the goal to produce something original? How can one writer's style be the same as another's? In my mind, unique voice is everything.

I've often marveled at the writing styles and character voices of other writers. Each author brings their own wealth of life experience, reading, research, creativity to their work, and I believe like snowflakes, no two styles are ever exactly alike. This is the beauty of the craft. It's what makes readers keep buying new books, sampling new authors, and coming back for more. We are all storytellers, but the magic is in the execution.

So, to sum up this blog post, like many writers, I've experimented with point of view, setting, characters and plot lines, but I've always stayed true to my own voice. While admiring the work of other authors, I've attempted to learn from them but not to copy them. I've also worked to grow as a writer and to improve my own style. Every author is on their own journey and this is what keeps our industry fresh and exciting. I know it's what keeps me coming back for more, both as a reader and a writer.

Twitter: brendaAchapman
Facebook: BrendaChapmanAuthor


Susan C Shea said...

I also was chief communications officer, in my case for university presidents - different people. I too had to write in the voice of various leaders, trying to use their stylistic and speaking voices - a Southern feminist, a wonky engineer, an internationally powerful R&D chief, a Jesuit priest...maybe that's why it took me so ling to find my own, authentic voice! So I salute you for being able to channel so many voices, real and fictional!

7 Criminal Minds said...

Thanks Susan! Yes, writing for someone else in a different style is a good training ground. Your work sounds interesting.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

I absolutely agree, Brenda, a unique voice is everything.