Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Weekend Writer

That office purge I've been talking about includes wading through dozens of writers' journals, which will be the subject of a blog post somewhere down the line. What I'm writing about today is something I found in one of those journals.

I had copied a quote from a review by Tim Sandlin (who might be this Tim Sandlin; it's been a long time, so who knows?) of Let the Dog Drive by David Bowman.

"Plot, character and voice are the holy trinity of fiction, and each has its own area of dominance. Theoretically, plot controls genre novels, character drives literary works, and voice powers humor."

Now the business about plot and genre and character and literary writing I've heard before. A number of times. But the bit about voice powering humor is new. Or not exactly new since I read it in a book review years ago. But this time around it it was like a light going off.

Voice Powers Humor

Think of all the times you've read a book that was supposed to be funny but wasn't. More likely than not, it was because the character speaking was just speaking. Just saying words. A narrator, whether first-person or third, was just telling things. The no voice.

Voice or no voice in a humor book is the literary equivalent of stand-up comics performing a set. They can recite a joke or they can sell it. Voice is how writers sell it.

You often hear of writers "searching for their voice" on a project. You can tell when you're writing humor whether or not you're selling it. And when you're not, it's probably because you haven't found a voice for a particular character or characters or narrator or narrative style. Once you do find it, the humor comes easier. It comes out of the character, because voice has a lot to do with attitude.

More on voice at Original Content.

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