Narrative Voice: the way to the reader’s heart

Today I have a long list of task to do.  I don’t want to do any of them—create and send an invoice to a client, write development notes for a script, call the pet insurance company and ask why they are still billing me for a cat who is gone when I notified them of this change six months ago.  The reason I want to race through these tasks is to get back to the book I am reading.

I want to immerse myself in the narrative voice. To hear the words, to let the sentences roll around in my head.

The characters are a mother and father and their children.  An ordinary family, if you will.  Pretty basic characters.  So far, by page 29, the father has come home from carousing, the family awakes the next morning, has breakfast, and then leaves the home.  So, not much action.  What is it that draws me back to keep reading?  It is the way the story is told:  the narrative voice.

The rhythm of the language flows to lead the reader sentence by sentence through the story.  Point of view changes, characters interact, scents come from the kitchen oven, all in the rhythmic voice.

How do you find your writing voice?  Read aloud.  Read from your favorite classics.  Read the King James Bible.  When you are writing forget Ernest Hemingway just for your experiment—use subordinate clauses, appositives, and prepositional phrases.  Try writing sentences that build suspense within by delaying the verb until the end of the sentence.

Best of all, write in longhand with pen in hand on paper.  Notice what happens to your language.

However much you follow formulas for creating characters, planning your plot, and writing scenes, the language you use will be the voice of the story.  Use it well.

Oh, the book I’m reading?  The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz.  It won the Nobel Prize.

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