Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Voice

Voice can be the most important thing in a written work. Recently, I talked about voice when I reviewed Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, and I've postulated before about how important voice is and yet how it cannot be taught (whether it can be learned, however, is a different matter).

One reason why Percy Jackson's voice shines through so well in Rick Riordan's books is because the book is written in a first person point of view. Because of the first person POV, Percy's phrases and attitudes can shine through even in the narrative and description.

However, in a third person POV, especially an omniscient third person POV, it becomes much more difficult to show voice. Voice is limited to dialogue (internal or external) and it becomes tricky trying to put the character voice into the description and narrative without having author intrusion.

So here's my question: What is a good book that shows voice but is told in 3rd period?

7 comments:

PJ Hoover said...

Hmmm. I don't know. But I'll think about it while I'm getting my massage.

beth said...

I'm so jealous!!! Have fun :)

C.R. Evers said...

Two books I can think of right away are Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski and Holes by Louis Sacchar (sp?)

My critique group has discussed this before. I'll have to go back and see if I still have our 3rd person "voice" list.

I was recently at a retreat where an editor gave some good advice about 3rd person voice. She said that your narrator should still have a personality even if they aren't a character in the story. You should have a good idea who your narrator is and what they sound like. ie: an old lady telling what she saw over tea. . . a neighbor telling us what he saw. The reader doesn't have to necessarily know exactly "who" this narrator is, but the author should. I hope I explained that OK.

PJ Hoover said...

Yep, I've been thinking about this, and I agree with C. R. - every third person book I liked, I realized the narrator has voice.

beth said...

Great ideas, CR! I'll have to put some more thought into it...

Vivian said...

I'm not sure whether people will agree with me here, but The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is brilliant for third person voice. The narrator is Death, and switches from first person to third person, but for the most part, this book is third person.

Tabitha said...

A Room On Lorelei Street by Mary Pearson is a great example of 3rd person with a strong voice.

I agree that it's much, much harder to write a 3rd person limited story and maintain a strong voice without author intrusion. Impossible if it's omniscient. :)

But I would disagree with you about how Voice can't be taught. I think it can, though it would be very, very difficult. And the teacher would have to have an incredibly strong understanding of the subject. Everyone may not "get" it, but the same is true for any subject. You probably see that everyday, seeing as you're a teacher. :)