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June 1, 2010 / theoldsilly

Professor Old Silly’s Tutorial Tuesday – Stay Out of It

Welcome back to Bloggyversity, English Comp Class 10001.3b, “Writing With Power in Fiction”. Take your seats, please class, I need your full attention, as in immediately. I have another very important tea and crumpets date with Ms. Flanders in just ten minutes, so stop with the flirting and sophomoric shenanigans, turn off your ipods, cell phones, black and/or raspberries, stop with the twittering, get your faces out of Facebook, boot up your monitors, straighten your drawers, plop your butts in your seats and be quiet. I’m in no mood for your typical silliness. Plus if you’re good I have some fresh baked cookies for you all after class, courtesy of Ms. Flanders.

That’s much better. Ahem. Today I’d like to discuss a subtle aspect of writing fiction, that being knowing when your own voice is intruding into your story.

As authors, we have, and become known by, our “voice”. It is one of those intangibles that creates a special aura about your writing, your books, that is often what brings the readers back wanting more. They like your style, the way you “speak” to them with your voice in your writing. When used properly, having a strong and unique voice as an author is a good thing.

But you can take it too far. Novice authors often do not know, or have under control, the amount of their own voice they use in a manuscript. Repetitive pet phrases, words, etc., are dead giveaways when an author is interjecting his or her own voice in an intrusive way into the story line, and also interjecting bits of information without having the characters doing the divulging can be jarring.  Here is an example of the latter.

~~~~~

He walked into the the room. The florescent lights were obnoxiously loud. John put his cell phone down on the nightstand, turned the switch off on the lights. The lights were from Home Depot, not very good quality, the utliterian type, and low budget offerings for those who needed to save a buck.

~~~~~

The last sentence is the author (in this case The Old Silly), imparting some information in my “own voice”. None of the characters said or thought that, right? So it was me, using my own voice, to give out the information. Here is a rewrite that incoprorates the same useful informatiuon without me introducing my voice into the story to an undue level.

~~~~~

He walked into the the room. The florescent lights were obnoxiously loud. John put his cell phone down on the nightstand, turned the switch off on the lights. Home Depot, he thought, low budget offerings for people like me who need to save a buck, but not very good quality.

~~~~~

Now John is telling us the information with his thoughts in 3rd person POV, rather than me saying it directly to the reader in omnicsient POV, which is almost always better, a more intimate read.

Okay, class dismissed, as usual leave your comments on my desk, and I must say . Wow! You’re all still here … Gold stars for everyone, and please help yourself to these still warm fresh baked cookies Ms. Flanders was kind enough to bake for you all.

Ooops, my cell.

“Yes, yes, Ms. Flanders, I’m coming, be right with you – and I just have to tell you how wonderful my class behaved today. Yes, I agree .. mmmhmm, I think I shall start making it a habit of serving your baked goods at the end.”

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17 Comments

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  1. Barbra Kelser / Jun 1 2010 6:06 am

    Good class, and say ‘thanks for the cookies’ to Ms. Flanders, Old Silly.:)

  2. Cactus Annie / Jun 1 2010 6:37 am

    The cookies were great, thanks, Old Silly and Ms. Flanders, lol. I get the “voice” thing … makes a lot of sense to have the characters doing the talking and thinking. Be back for class next week! 🙂

  3. Ron Berry / Jun 1 2010 6:57 am

    learned something today, good one. I’ll pass on the cookies, I need to lose a bit of weight.

  4. Terri Dryden / Jun 1 2010 7:02 am

    Thank Ms. Flanders…the cookies were wonderful! I like the lesson as well… Have a good day.

  5. yvonne lewis / Jun 1 2010 7:38 am

    Loved the lesson also the cookies.

    Yvonne.

  6. Will Burke / Jun 1 2010 7:53 am

    Duly noted, my character’s opinions are interesting, mine are not. My character loved the cookies!

  7. ReformingGeek / Jun 1 2010 8:00 am

    Reffie thought the cookies were tasteless, probably from a school fund-raising sale where they sat out all day.

    She ate six of them.

    Burp.

    😉

  8. Mason Canyon / Jun 1 2010 8:58 am

    Glad you’re back. Enjoyed the class. As always, very helpful.

    Mason
    Thoughts in Progress

  9. Saumya / Jun 1 2010 9:19 am

    This was such a helpful class! I just stumbled across your blog for the first time today and loved this post. In one of my fiction workshops, my professor always emphasized the idea of “showing” over “telling”. I think you put it in a manner that is very easy to understand. Thank you!!

  10. Leeuna / Jun 1 2010 9:36 am

    yummm. Cookies. And the lesson was fun too. 😉 Welcome back, Professor Silly.

  11. Alex J. Cavanaugh / Jun 1 2010 9:52 am

    Makes perfect sense.

    And your blog title made me wonder what I was to stay out of? The kitchen?

  12. Michele Emrath / Jun 1 2010 11:12 am

    Great point…A few books I can think of should be sent to you for editing. Love these fun lessons, Professor.

    Michele
    Southern City Mysteries

  13. L. Diane Wolfe / Jun 1 2010 12:27 pm

    In other words, make it personal (to the Character.)

  14. Helen Ginger / Jun 1 2010 1:00 pm

    Fun lesson. And good cookies. I only ate one. I swear. Okay, two.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

  15. Enid Wilson / Jun 2 2010 1:08 am

    I love the cookies and the class. Thanks professor!

    Steamy Darcy

  16. Elizabeth Spann Craig / Jun 2 2010 4:34 am

    Great point, Marvin! I’m tweeting this one…

  17. tashabud / Jun 2 2010 5:02 pm

    Sorry, I’m very late for class. This is very informative, Old Silly. I may have to go over my novel again because there are tons of my own voice there that need rewriting. ARGH!!!

    Wecome back.
    Tasha

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