I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.
I’ve fallen in love with Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas books. For those of you not familiar with Odd Thomas, here is a nutshell rendition:
Odd Thomas likes to think that he’s just a young, ordinary guy who works as a fry cook, when he works. The love of his life was a beautiful girl, Stormy. (Notice, I said, was.) However, Oddie is far from ordinary. First of all there’s his name, Odd Thomas. It was supposed to be Todd Thomas but there was a mistake made on his birth certificate where the T got dropped so his legal name is Odd. Since that name fits him better than Todd I wonder if Fate interceded in the birth certificate screw-up.(Isn’t this a wonderful creative twist that Dean Koontz thought of?) Second, Odd sees dead people. They seek him out. The ghost of Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra follow him around along with a ghost dog, Boo. (Yet another great idea from Koontz) Because of his physic ability, Oddie finds himself in one mess after another. For some reason Fate has determined Odd Thomas is a superhero destined to save the world from all the bad guys and things that go bump in the night. Odd Thomas would argue with me saying he is neither physic nor a superhero. But. He is.
Dean Koontz is a great writer. He’s written tons of books. But, in my opinion, he hit pay-dirt with this character, Odd Thomas. Why do I think that? It’s Oddie’s voice that captivated me. Odd Thomas is witty, quick, extremely polite, modest, and funny. At times I laughed out loud at some of the things Koontz has Oddie say and think. Odd Thomas is a brilliant character but it’s his voice that is the magic.
I’ve also got hooked on Craig Johnson’s Longmire series. I watched the adventures of the strong, silent Wyoming sheriff, Walt Longmire on TV which prompted me to buy the books. Again, it isn’t the plots that reached out and grabbed me, but rather the voice of not only Walt but all the supporting characters in the book.
So, just what is this voice I keep talking about?
Good question. I’m not sure I can explain it. I understand it. But putting it in words is difficult. At least for me. As a writer, many people have told me they love my voice. I asked,”What is my voice?” They couldn’t explain it either. Hmm. Some of these fellow writers claim they can pick up one of my books (I have three, Soldiers From the Mist, The Rook and The Raven, and Daughter of the Howling Moon) and without looking at my name, they can tell I wrote it. They say my voice is a dead give-away. But. I’m not so sure. I think they are talking about my style.
What is my style?
For one thing, I use a lot of incomplete sentences. It’s not that I don’t know how to write a complete sentence. I made A’s in grammar. But, do we think in complete sentences? No. So why would I have my characters doing anything different? For another, I usually write in first person and my main character is female. Strong, independent women who have faults and are vulnerable but who can also kick ass, take names, and stand on their own. Their men are too good to be true. These men are so sure and confident in who they are, they aren’t afraid to let their women be who they are. Very rare find in real life. In addition, there is always a thread of the paranormal in my writing. The theme always comes back to unconditional love and how good will always defeat bad. I didn’t set out to even have a theme. It just happened. I love that.
Now for my voice.
In my opinion, it is how each of my characters walk and talk that determines this illusive voice phenomenon. Every one of my characters, from the protagonist to the kid walking by on the street, have their own way of speaking, thinking, and wording things. Just like ordinary people in real life. None of us talk, walk, think, or act the same. Why in the world would my characters be any different? I will admit I do have a wonderful ability in writing dialogue. Others often tell me, “your characters talk so real.” I really can’t take credit for this. As I often have said, I channel my characters. My dialogue is so real because my characters are giving me their actual words and thoughts. Odd Thomas would be so proud.
I hope some day I hit pay-dirt with my characters like Dean with his Oddie and Craig with Walt. Maybe I already have. Bethany Ann and Benjamin are a pretty strong duo. Dixie Dandelion will knock your socks off when she comes riding across the page. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that someday the whole world will be saying how my characters’ voice captivated them.
Voice and Style. Same, same. But different.
Never leave home or write without them.