13 October 2009

Spec Fic Tools II: Voice

As we prepare the next issue of Electric Spec, I can't help thinking a unique voice can make the difference between a good spec fic story and an excellent one. Let's look at an example...

In Magic for Beginners (MfB) Kelly Link shows off her charming narrative voice. Voice can be a tricky concept to nail down but is an author's unique writing style and is created via such tools as diction (style of expression and vocabulary), syntax (sentence construction), and punctuation. The stories in MfB differ significantly in plot and character but the reader easily recognizes Link's consistent voice in how the stories are expressed.

Link's voice is personal and intimate; it's as if the author is sitting next to you on the couch, leaning forward telling you, and you alone, a story. She doesn't explain; she assumes you, her friend, know exactly what she's talking about. She doesn't introduce characters such as Henry, Catherine, Carleton, and Tilly in “Stone Animals”; it's as if she's resuming an earlier conversation with the reader about them. For example, in “Stone Animals” the son, Carleton, is introduced via, "Carleton was running up and down the staircase, slapping his heels down hard, keeping his head down and his hands folded around the banister." (p71) In “Catskin”, the witch is introduces via "Cats went in and out of the witch's house all day long." (p125) The protagonist of “Some Zombie Contingency Plans” is introduced via "This guy Sap is at a party out in the suburbs." (p159)

Link writes of the fantastic and the surreal in a matter-of-fact manner. For example, in “The Faery Handbag”, "The faery handbag: It's huge and black and kind of hairy. ...Fairies live inside it. I know what that sounds like, but it's true." (pp 2-3) We also see this in “The Hortlak”, "The zombies came in, and he was polite to them, and failed to understand what they wanted, and sometimes real people came in and bought candy or cigarettes or beer." (p 28) In “Stone Animals” Link writes, "He sits on his rabbit, legs pressed against the warm, silky, shining flanks .... He has something in his other hand ...a spear. All around him, the others are sitting on their rabbits, waiting patiently, quietly." (p121

In places Link's voice approaches stream-of-consciousness. For example, in “The Faery Handbag”: "It's kind of like if you went through the wardrobe in the Narnia books, only instead of finding Aslan and the White Witch and horrible Eustace, you found this magic clothing world--instead of talking animals, there were feather boas and wedding dresses and bowling shoes, and paisley shirts and Doc Martens and everything hung up on racks so that first you have black dresses, all together, like the world's largest indoor funeral, and then blue dresses--all the blues you can imagine--and then red dresses and so on." (p1) This stream-of-consciousness is very informal; it's as if the reader has a line directly into the author's mind. And when that author is Link that's a real treat.

1 comment:

David E. Hughes said...

Good observations, Lesley. I agree Link has one of the most distinctive voices around, and she has an amazing ability to use voice to carry the story (most of the time).