I tend to get caught up on strange things when I listen to public speakers. I notice their idiosyncrasies and analyze odd things like their voice. Have you ever thought a person’s voice didn’t match their appearance? That’s the kind of stuff I think about. Weird, I know.
It’s the same in fiction, though, isn’t it? We notice the way writers use certain words or phrases more than others. It’s a sort of signature the writer may not even know is there. We call them “crutch” words, the words we lean on when we can’t think of anything else. The problem? They tend to create a voice that doesn’t match the passage, and this can be damaging to immersive reading.
I try to adapt the voice of a passage to the personality of the point of view character and the tone I want to create for a scene. I think this is something expert writers inherently do when they’re creating powerful scenes because they’re natural students of people and environments. They understand certain things:
- The feelings that come up in moments of fear, anticipation, grief, loss, happiness, or confusion
- What escalates or deescalates a situation
- How one person’s words can affect the minds and emotions of others
Knowing those things, writers use word choice, sentence structure, and tone to evoke those emotions in readers. Done poorly this makes for an unpleasant reading experience. Wouldn’t it seem awkward if a climactic moment in a Frank Peretti novel was written in the style of a Karen Kingsbury climax? Peretti is writing about warriors colliding whereas Kingsbury is writing about two people coming together in love. Imagine that the language and tone of the man professing his love for the woman were used for the angel fighting the demon.
The idea is to be as real-to-life as possible. Here is an example of a scene from my upcoming release, Fate of the Redeemed:
“Yara sat bolt upright and screamed. Ibrahim ignored the protests of his frail and cracking bones as he sprang to his feet and rushed to her side. He dropped down to his knees in front of her and grabbed her by the shoulders, calling out her name.”
Although we’re not getting deep into the character’s emotions, we’re getting an understanding of the urgency. This is done through a mixture of complex and compound sentences with varied length to create a sense of urgency. The idea here is to imitate the increased heart rate of someone in an emergency. Imagine if we did this with a different approach:
“Yara sat up and screamed. Ibrahim’s eyes blinked open, and he felt the protest of his frail and cracking bones as he lifted to one shoulder and regarded his screaming granddaughter. Seeing that she was upset, he got up, moved over to her, and tried to comfort her by placing his hands on her shoulders and calling her name.”
The second example employs a three-step list, but people don’t think that way in an emergency. They move from action to action, and they certainly don’t do so with a slow, methodical manner.
Good writing makes us feel the way characters feel. We suspend our sense of reality and get lost in the story, but this takes a great deal of effort on the part of the writer. When you read a book that has done this well, try to appreciate the craft as well as the story. Then, get back into that story!
Chad grew up lost in the world of fantasy fiction but alienated from a knowledge of God. With no real direction in his life, he shipped out for basic training twelve days after high school. He continued down a path of sin and destruction through two combat tours to Iraq, but then God pulled back the blinders, and he met his Lord and Savior.
One passion that never left him was his love for fiction, and in 2013, he went back to school and earned his degree in English. This helped him develop his craft, spending long hours pounding away at the keys until his battles with guilt, fear, and shame came alive on the page.
Now he is on a mission to pull back the curtain on spiritual warfare and show others how to overcome trials through faith and start living their best lives for God.
Before time froze, angels and demons battled for a man’s soul.
Hidden among the rooftops of a dark city, the archangel, Orac watches as a lone vehicle travels into the night. Armed with his fiery sword and orders to protect the driver of the vehicle at all costs, Orac takes flight. He seizes on the element of surprise to defeat the demon, Talnuc, but soon discovers that the demon is not alone.
When the archangel’s defenses are penetrated by the spirit of fear, he must rely on the help of a powerful watcher named Draven.
But, when an even greater and more sinister threat is revealed, drastic measures must be taken by Orac and Draven, and the remnant of the heavenly host must follow unprecedented orders for the sake of mankind’s future. As eternal forces collide, the journey of fate begins.