Listen to Pilot Light

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Voice

Writers are commonly told that they need to find their own voice, a way to express their unique vision of the world. That's true. Who wants to sound like everyone else? What reader wants to read someone who doesn't show a personal flair?

It's less often mentioned that an author needs to find the right voice for a particular story. Every story puts its own demands on the writer. He or she is faced with selecting the parts that matter and portraying them in an interesting, effective way (with the reader getting to decide if it is interesting; the effective part is the writer's call.) That can be easy, or hard.

When I wrote THE LEGEND OF RON ANEJO (available at Amazon and everywhere else), the voice was simple enough. The story is intended to be mostly humorous and it's based, loosely (playing free with reality) on real events and people who chose to live around, in, or on boats in the Caribbean. Dagny and I were among them on our boat, and what I saw, the people I met intrigued and amused me and I wanted to capture that life. I took the role of a naive narrator relaying the antics of people around him and the world he was swept up into. Never mind that in the more real world, the one most people live in, I was directly involved. Some might say even an instigator. But nothing was ever proven and we were never caught. I mean charged.

For the book, I took a step back and told the story, focusing on the aspects that I found (dare I say it?) exciting and funny.

Jammed into the mangroves in Carriacou for a hurricane

That was relatively easy. As you can see by the photo above, at times we were all rather cheek and jowl. That provided a ready source of story material for sure. (There was, however, a rather mobile hurricane party in the mangroves that didn't make the book... maybe another time.)

The book I'm writing now is quite different. It's a serious attempt to deal with some issues that I wonder about. What they are, specifically, isn't the difficulty. The challenge is finding a way to address "issues" (see, it's an important word, warranting quotes and everything) with screwing up a perfectly good story. It's a balance between a desire to be a good storyteller and a good writer, which aren't necessarily the same thing. Most successful thriller writers are excellent storytellers. Few do much in the way of elegant or interesting writing.

There's a difference.

Finding that balance, the right approach to this story, is what currently is filling my white boards (yes, plural. I have three) with multiple colored notes, admonitions to self, and various bits and pieces of what I consider good writing. The basic story is powerful and bittersweet. This time it takes place in a border town--in Cambodia.

It's a fun struggle and that kind of challenge is one worth taking on.