What Bette Midler, Julie Andrews, Adele, Celine Dion, Bernadette Peters, and a Bunch of Other Divas Can Teach Novelists about Voice

A Facebook friend clued me into this great comic work that I want to in turn share with you. In it, Christina Bianco sings Total Eclipse of the Heart as more than a dozen different divas, most of which you will know if you’ve been listening (even accidentally) to the radio during the past few decades. Watch the video and then let’s continue with our discussion below.

You did watch it right? To the end? Don’t cheat!

Okay. It doesn’t take a very big leap to apply this fantastically fun video to writing fiction, does it? The same song sung in many different voices.

In your current WIP, are you purposefully cultivating a compelling voice? One that will be recognized? One that is unique? Or has voice slipped your mind as you focus on plot or making sure you don’t mix tenses?

Voice is one of the main elements of fiction that is nearly impossible to define or teach, but every agent and editor out there says they are looking for what? A strong voice. A unique voice.

Voice changes the reader’s experience of the book. With my first completed novel manuscript, the voice was originally fairly flat and matter-of-fact, which was purposeful as I wrote the first draft. But upon revising many times, I realized that the least interesting and least fully realized character in the entire story was my protagonist. Everyone else was alive. She was dead. Problem? POV and voice.

So I changed from 3rd person POV to 1st person POV, and as I made that change, the voice followed. A detached voice turned into the voice of someone who was easier to relate to, who had believable reactions to things, who questioned her own motives and choices, who was thoughtful and introspective, but who invited the reader into her world.

Same story, different voice.

Next time you read through your manuscript, pay attention to the voice. Are you coming across the way you really want to? Is the voice drawing the reader in or keeping him at arm’s length? Is the voice honest or tricky? Above all, whatever voice you develop, is it consistent?

Because while it’s fun to watch a six minute YouTube video with twenty different voices, no reader wants to be jerked around like that.

One thought on “What Bette Midler, Julie Andrews, Adele, Celine Dion, Bernadette Peters, and a Bunch of Other Divas Can Teach Novelists about Voice

  1. Hi Erin: Interesting Post: I went through the same experience with my first novel. However, one agent remarked that she could not see the protagonist very well in the first person. I tried to repair that with more “introspection” but was then told by others that readers find that “boring”. Oh well….I guess the trick is to write a story that sticks and keeps readers reading, from the “inciting incident” at the opening first page till the “bitter” end.

Comments are closed.