I wanted to do one more post on author voice before we dive into characters. As interesting as comparing different authors is, it does raise another question:
What parts of those different styles were because of the authors, and which parts were because of the book?
So in order to really get a handle on author voice, we're going to look at three different books by one author. I chose Neil Gaiman, not just because Neil Gaiman is the Chuck Norris of books, but also because he has a consistent style that's easy to study.
First the excerpt from the last post:
There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.
The knife had a handle of polished black bone and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you would not even know you had been cut, not immediately.
The knife had done almost everything it was brought to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.
The street door was still open, just a little, where the knife and the man had slipped in, and wisps of nighttime mist slithered and twined into the house through the open door.
The man Jack paused on the landing. With his left hand he pulled a large white handkerchief from the pocket of his black coat, and with it he wiped off the knife and his gloved right hand which had been holding it; then he put the handkerchief away. The hunt was almost over.
From The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
All well and good. But what if he wrote a story with an entirely different feel to it?
There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart's Desire.
And while that is, as beginnings go, not entirely novel (for every tale about every young man there ever was or will be could start in a similar manner), there was much about this young man and what happened to him that was unusual, although even he never knew the whole of it.
The tale started, as many tales have started, in Wall
From Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Those first two books could both be considered YA (although Gaiman moves fluidly between adult and YA, so he's hard to classify). But what if we looked at one of his adult fantasies?
She had been running for four days now, a harum-scarum tumbling flight through passages and tunnels. She was hungry, and exhausted, and more tired than a body could stand, and each successive door was proving harder to open. After four days of flight, she had found a hiding place, a tiny stone burrow, under the world, where she would be safe, or so she prayed, and at last she slept.
* * *
Mr. Croup had hired Ross at the last Floating Market, which had been held in Westminster Abbey. "Think of him," he told Mr. Vandemar, "as a canary."
"Sings?" asked Mr. Vandemar.
"I doubt it; I sincerely and utterly doubt it." Mr. Croup ran a hand through his lank orange hair. "No, my fine friend, I was thinking metaphorically--more along the lines of the birds they take down mines."
Mr. Vandemar nodded, comprehension dawning slowly: yes a canary. Mr. Ross had no other resemblance to a canary. He was huge--almost as big as Mr. Vandemar--and extremely grubby, and quite hairless, and he said very little, although he had made a point of telling each of them that he liked to kill things, and he was good at it, and this amused Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar. But he was a canary and he never knew it. So Mr. Ross went first in his filthy T-shirt and his crusted blue-jeans, and Croup and Vandemar walked behind him in their elegant black suits.
From Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Across age ranges, across different kinds of stories, the voice stays consistent.
Here's what I know. When you have put in the work, when you have honed your craft, your voice will come. And it will be recognizable in everything you do.
Looking at them side by side, you can see how some of the things we talked about in the last post--like the longer sentences and the simple descriptions--are part of Neil Gaiman's author voice. Also notice that even though the third passage has dialogue and more than one character, it still carries a little of the same narrative distance of the other two paragraphs.
Every author has a certain way they like to write, and that is what we mean when we say "author voice".
Does this make sense? Do you guys have any questions?
You can find the rest of the voice series here:
Talking about Voice, part 1: What is it?
Talking about Voice, part 2: Three authors, three books
Talking about Voice, part 4: Viewpoint voices
Talking about Voice, part 5: Differences in character dialogue
Talking about Voice, part 6: Helpful links