“Whenever I see a sight like these clouds, I think maybe everyone is wrong; maybe you can walk on air. Maybe we should just try. Everything could have changed without our noticing. Laws of physics, I mean. Why not? I want it to be true that such miracles occur.” What We Keep, Elizabeth Berg
This is the voice of a woman in need of a miracle, someone who wants so much to find answers and is willing to consider more than what she's always believed.
Sharon's post got me thinking about voice, and I pulled some great examples from recent & favorite reads:
“I have been afraid of putting air in a tire ever since I saw a tractor tire blow up and threw Newt Hardbine’s father over the top of the Standard Oil sign. I’m not lying.” The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
A teen-aged girl from a small Southern town tells her story.
“Late afternoon. We were playing, my gang against his, and when he ran at me again, bully that he was, bigger than me, and catching me off balance, I felt the power go out of me as I shouted: “You’ll never get where you’re going.” He fell down white in the sandy earth…” Christ the Lord, Anne Rice
Jesus as a child - you just want to know what he was like as a kid.
“At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin.” The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
I still find myself wondering if the bees were real or a figment of this young girl's imagination, although they were very real to her.
“’It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
I love the wry humor in this, since Lizzy is in no hurry to be married. Even if she didn't directly say it, you can hear her pointing it out, can't you?
“I was born in 1904, so that when I was pregnant in 1943 I was near enough to be past the rightful age to bear children.” Jewel, Bret Lott
There is so much about Jewel's situation in this first sentence.
“It’s hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. It’s hard to be the one who stays.” The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
Her loneliness and heartbreak is palpable. I felt for her before I even knew her.
"I'm ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other." Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
Such spunk shows in these few words. If he were young, he would say, "Whatever."
‘Susan Scott is a wonder. We sold over forty copies of the book, which was very pleasant, but much more thrilling from my standpoint was the food. Susan managed to procure ration coupons for icing sugar and real eggs for the meringue.” The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
She sounds like the kind of person I would like to know - upbeat, positive and excited by life.
I recently returned a book to the library after only reading three chapters, and it was due to my frustration with the main characters. They had no distinct voices. Readers should be able to tell that a character is a poor farmer living in the deep South during WWII without having to be told! I'm not advocating the use of dialect. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers suggests using word choice, cadence and grammar to impart this rather than to distract the reader with dropped endings or phonetic spellings.
From comments we've received, voice is a strong determining factor as to whether or not a reader sticks with a book to the end. I started the same book 3 times and finally finished it, and I realize that there was no particular voice established until several chapters into the story. But the book had a voice of its own, and that's what I was getting for the first chapter or so. It turned out to be a very good story, which I will post on in the near future.
Have you struggled with a book's voice and been glad you persevered?