character voice

Under the Influence

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This week over at The Parking Lot Confessional, we’re talking about the authors who influence us. Due to my being a doofus, I double-booked our guest authors this week, and rather than try to reschedule either (especially since they both worked so hard writing awesome guests posts), we decided to go ahead and run both of them.

Did I mention I’m a doofus?

Anyway, my mistake ended up having kind of a cool twist. See, today is the day I normally blog at The PLC, but instead, today Tom Leveen’s guest post is up. And it’s awesome. So go read it if you haven’t. The cool-ironic-twisty part is, Tom’s novel, PARTY, has influenced the stuff I’m working on right now.

You need to go read it, too, if you haven’t.

Most authors tackle one narrative voice in their novels. Some tackle two or three. Tom took on eleven. Let’s say that again together: eleven.

Eleven chapters written from eleven different points of view. I know, you’re dubious. But you have to trust me when I say: it works.

Not only that, but Tom’s characters are so real that when I finished the book, I thought, “Man, I wish I could just hang out with them.” (Beckett, especially.)

He nailed the voice of each and every character in that book.

Now, if you’re like me, you know that getting character voice right can be a bit like trying to hold onto a wet cat. Or an octopus. Or a slippery fish. Anyway, it’s hard. Character voices sometimes wiggle and wobble and squirm when you try to pin them down.

Well, Tom makes it look easy. Which goes to show just how important the revision work he discusses in his guest post is. And how much it pays off.

The other thing that really blew me away with Party was how Tom took on all of the “issues” in the book. You know, the issues: peer pressure, underage drinking, sex, swearing, death, racial tension, relationships, annoying parents, God. Tom doesn’t back away from any of those hot potatoes. Which I think, both as a writer and a reader, is pretty brave. He created real characters dealing with real problems. It’s all of those issues that carry the plot of the book, marching each of the characters to their pivotal moment where they face the consequences of their actions. It’s kind of brilliant how all of the stories come together and then disperse. Like…people at a party… (Whoa.)

As a writer, I want to create characters that my readers want to hang with after the book is done. And I want to write stories that don’t shy away from the uglier parts of life. Party has helped me see how it’s possible to do both of those things, and do them well.

Great book.

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