Tag Archives: Jodi McKay

Authors on Craft: Jodi McKay on Voice

Let your VOICE be heard!

Discussing the concept of voice with the voices in my head.

“How can I let my voice be heard?”

“Will it make a difference?”

“What the hell is voice?”

You can nail down voice with a bit of practice and it does make a big difference in your writing, but first let’s talk about what voice is.

An Author’s Voice is writing that is unique to the writer. It allows readers to understand what type of writer you are because the the tone, word choices, rhythm, structure, the personality of the stories are consistent from book to book.

Think of Dr. Seuss’s books for a minute. They each have a similar lyrical style with silly characters, quirky words, and (for the most part) upbeat moods. His voice is loud and clear which makes his books easily recognizable. Readers who like that style will come back for more because they know they will not be disappointed and that makes a difference in a reader’s life, especially a young reader.

“I totally want to be the next Mo Willems.”

No you don’t, you want to be the next you. Sheesh, aren’t you listening? Clearly you need some practice with finding your author voice. Try these exercises:

  1. Describe your personality. How do these traits inform your writing?
  2. Ask other people to read your work to see if there are patterns in the way you write.
  3. Read a ton of books. Which ones do you like? Why? Which ones don’t you like? Why? How does your style of writing compare?
  4. Write a lot! As you are writing take a second to assess how it feels. Do you like what you are writing? Why? Do you feel good when you are writing or does it feel like work?

“I need more coffee for this.”

Fine, but then we need to move on to Character Voice.

“I’m back. Speaking of character voice, I have this character who is a real jerk. Does that mean that I’m a jerk because it’s essentially coming from me?”

Good question. Sometimes you are a jerk, but that’s not why your character is. A character’s voice is simply a view point portrayed with word choice, attitude, and rhythm. These show the character’s age, personality, beliefs, education, and feelings and makes the character believable. These do not have to be a reflection of the author.

Think of Stephen King’s, Carrie. Carrie is a 16-year-old girl whose naiveté and timid personality were a result of the unstable, overzealous, and tyrannical parenting style of her mother. Those are two disparate character voices, neither of which have anything to do with who Stephen King is as a person.

“Ooh, what if Stephen King really has telekinesis like Carrie?”

Focus, please. Again, the characters do not have to be an extension of the author. They do, however, need to be believable. The words King gave to his characters, especially that crazy-ass mother in Carrie, made them seem real and they evoked feelings that caused the reader (me) to want to keep reading. It’s important to really get to know your character before you start writing so that your story feels authentic otherwise readers will be pulled out of the story as soon as they feel like the character is unrealistic.

“You’re going to make me to do more writing exercises aren’t you?”

Here, have some chocolate and stop complaining. This is important. Getting voice down is essential to having your work stand out from the rest. It is your way of speaking to the masses and possibly creating change. You never know if one of your characters will be the catalyst for a child’s view on discrimination or a person’s willingness to change. Do the work, the readers deserve no less than the best!

Try this get-to-know-your-character chart. It’s a fun way to, um, get to know your characters.

“All right, I’m going to do it! I’m going to let my voice be heard and I’m going to listen closer to the voices of my fellow writers.”

What do you all think? How will you let your voice be heard?

13879203_10210761791699981_1471649385510257844_nJodi McKay is the author of the very voicey picture book, WHERE ARE THE WORDS (Albert A. Whitman Books, 2016), illustrated by Denise Holmes. You can find Jodi online at JodiMcKayBooks.com and @JLMcKay1

 

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2015: It’s a Wrap!

end title 590.jpgLooking back on 2015 to see what I’ve done on this blog, trying to take stock, assess and reassess…

  • I did a lovely series of interviews with some of the top children’s book editors in the business called Quick Questions, where we heard from Stacey Barney of Penguin/Putnam; Lisa Yoskowitz at Little, Brown; Nancy Mercado at Scholastic; Joy Peskin at Farrar, Straus and Giroux; and Rotem Moscovich at Disney Hyperion. Thank you for your generosity, ladies!
  • When the beautiful, new JDLit website launched, you all were some of the first to see it, because I highlighted it here.
  • I posted a beautiful nugget on writing, by one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  • We did a couple of book giveaways and gave lots of writing and publishing advice, on topics ranging from breaking through writer’s block, to how to write an effective query letter, to the benefit of going to writing conferences.
  • My former intern (hi Kimberly!) wrote a terrific monthly series, Inside Scoop: Dish from a Literary Agent Intern, sharing her experience of interning.
  • Some of my clients stepped up and blogged for me over the summer, giving me a break. Thank you, Jodi McKay, M-E Girard, Jessica Rinker (Cooper), Joe McGee, R.L. Saunders, Katherine Sparrow, Elaine Kiely Kearns, and Natasha Sinel! And then when I was at a loss for words at the end of the year, Jodi, Jessica, Joe and Elaine stepped up again.
  • By far, my most-viewed blog post though, was by the inimitable Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest. If you’re one of the very few people left on the planet who didn’t read Chuck’s post, check it out here.

What will 2016 hold in store for me? Who knows?! Here are some things I do know though…

  • I’m very much looking forward to seeing the publication of a couple of client books, announcing a few deals that are done but not fully executed, finalizing deals for some other clients, selling a bunch more client manuscripts, and finding and welcoming new clients.
  • I’m starting off the year doing something I love, going to the Miami SCBWI conference. Then in the spring I’ll be at the Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference. I so enjoy meeting authors and trying to make a bit of a difference for them.
  • I’m making a commitment to finish the first draft of a middle grade manuscript I’ve been writing (by July 1st). I’m outing my writing self here. Hold me to it, friends!

What are you looking forward to in 2016? What are you committed to?

(Scroll down to the comments section. I really want to know!)

 

 

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On Writing: Why Story is Necessary (3)

by Jodi McKay

static1.squarespaceI can’t imagine what it would be like to be a child in the world today. How confusing and scary everything must seem. It makes me angry that their reality is so harsh, but what can I do about it?

I can create a place where hate doesn’t dare exist. A place where giggles, guffaws, and the occasional chortle always win the fight against fear, and acts of kindness outnumber violence a gazillion to one. I can build a world where change is possible, not just because someone wants it, but because they actually do something to make it happen. I can construct a space that inspires imagination and promotes free-thinking ideals. I can create a place that kids want to come back to because it’s safe and makes them simply feel happy. I can write a book.

Kids need something better than what this world is giving them right now and I believe that books, specifically and lovingly written just for children, provides them with a way out of the craziness. So, if there is ever anything I can do to improve the life of a child in the world today, it would be to write a book so that is what I will do.

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