Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V: Voice

I recently finished Part III of my fantasy monstrosity, Disciple, which included a full revision of Part II... all of which comes to about 100k words over a few months so I was well steeped in my fantasy-writing voice.

Then I tried to write a character interview with Neal, one of my science fiction characters. The change in voice was kinda like downshifting too far and I felt that whump the engine does, then heard it rev painfully high... well, if you drive a stick shift you know what I'm talking about.

Voice is difficult to pin down. You know it when you see it (like porn.) In thinking about it, I remembered that I have two scenes of somebody watching somebody seducing somebody else. So I thought I'd compare voices.

No context, yeah, but what's going on doesn't matter right now. I'm looking at word choices and sentence structures.

Fantasy: 

I was given the smallest of the guest rooms as my own and the men shared the others. My boots had hardly been off in two days, and when I sat on the mattress and unlaced them it took some two-handed wiggling to get them loose and then some peeling for the wool socks. The floor was chilly under bare feet, but no worse than my dormitory room at the Order. The baron's daughter had said she’d return with a hot water bladder for my bed.

My toes drying, I got up to shut my door. Glancing down the hall — I was at the end — I saw her, lamp in hand, leaning against the wall opposite Sir Anders. They spoke too quietly to hear, but she laughed at something he said and played at sassing back with one fist on her generous hip. That made him laugh in return.

Sir Anders shifted to put his hand to the wall beside her and lean on it. She turned her nose away, haughty, but spoiled the effect with a smile. He caught her chin with two fingers and turned her back for a kiss.

I felt a blush rise on my face. I pushed the door shut but couldn’t help lingering with one eye at the shrinking crack.

The baron's daughter stepped around him and he turned, leaned against the wall where she’d been. She took a few steps, looked back, and then kept walking. After a moment, Sir Anders followed.

I never did get that hot water bladder. 

Science fiction: 

Maggie, leaning past Neal to watch, saw Shen’s dark eyes sharpen on Glenna. His casual hug turned into a tighter grip. The corner of a grin slipped around her face as they hovered, noses almost touching, eyes locked. Maggie’s pulse shuddered in her chest, turning cold. Shen’s hand on Glenna’s back, long fingers splayed, caught on the edge of her corset as his grip tightened.

And Shen kissed her sister.

Glenna raked her fingers into [his] dark green hair and his hand was sliding down toward her butt. A bit of a twist and she was slithering onto his lap, wedged against the lip of the bar.

A squeeze bottle broke Maggie’s line of sight and she blinked. Neal flipped the nozzle open and hesitated, noticing her. He was blurring fast as her eyes filled up. And behind him, where the vague glimpses of green and…

“Psst!” Jezebel snapped and pointed toward the open door at the end of the bar. “Get a room!”

Maggie blinked and tears clung to her lashes. Got a glimpse of Glenna the moment Shen pinned her up against the door sill, her arms inside his unzipped jumpsuit. Maggie squeezed her eyes shut. Her sister’s giggles faded down the hallway past the door.

“Hey, hey.” Neal’s arm wrapped around her, put her face to his shoulder. “Don’t cry.”

Verbs
In the interests of keeping this short, just looking at the verbs illustrates pretty well how much softer and slower my fantasy voice is.

Fantasy:
was given      shared      had been      sat      unlaced      took      wiggling      peeling      was      had said      drying      got      glancing      was      saw      leaning      spoke      laughed      said      played      made      felt      rise      pushed      couldn't      lingering      shrinking      stepped      turned      leaned      'd been      took      looked      kept      followed      get

Science fiction:
leaning      watch      saw      sharpen      turned      slipped      hovered      shuddered      turning      caught      tightened      kissed      raked      was sliding      slithering      broke      blinked      flipped      hesitated      blurring      filled      snapped      pointed      blinked      clung      got      pinned      squeezed      faded      wrapped      put     cry

Why wasn't kiss a verb in the fantasy seduction? was the first thing I saw when I made those lists. What do you see?

Want to read more? My writing samples: Fantasy, Science fiction.

2 comments:

Stephanie said...

I noticed harder, more in your face verbs in the science fiction excerpt. The fantasy scene was more careful, it seemed. I wonder if the word kiss would have been too blunt to fit.

L. Blankenship said...

"too blunt to fit" -- (nodding) My gut tells me things like that, though it can't usually put words on it. Just that certain words don't fit in a particular voice, and it's not always something that makes sense.

I mean, it's easy to see how in a fantasy story I'm not going to use the word "vinyl", for example. Less obvious things than that.

I'm not sure how to blog about it, though, because it sounds so pretentious.

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