Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hearing Voices, or VoNP (Voice over Novel Protocol)

We gravitate to the work of certain composers of music and writers of stories because, regardless of their genre, regardless even of their style, they speak to us in a particularly resonant voice. You believe there is more of a sense of appreciation among composers of music than you find among writers, nevertheless it is clear to you that the protagonist of your current work in progress reads the work of John Shannon because your protagonist admires John Shannon's protagonist, Jack Liffey. The two men have little in common and it was your intent to keep it that way. Having decided who your protagonist's client was to be, your next clear goal was to have your protagonist's client hire him to do anything but track down and retrieve runaway children because that is what Jack Liffey does. Given the circumstances in which your protagonist lives, you thought it would be fun--and it is--to have your protagonist be hired by a housemaid, a decision that got the story in gear--until you had to decide what the maid wanted to hire your protagonist to do. You fussed and fumed for an agonizing day or two before you remembered a conversation with Karen Dellabarca, whom you met by accident while at Peet's. Knowing why the maid wanted to hire your protagonist is something like the earlier ads for the Porsche and other so-called sports cars, zero-to-sixty in a matter of seconds. The novel is at sixty and, although watchful for speed bumps, is purring along.

The thrust of this investigation resides in the first sentence (supra), relating to the why of gravitation. Your own guess is voice. It is not so much that you have been in an argument with Monte Schulz about voice; actually you've engaged him in his discussion--well, no, one does not really discuss with Monte, one waits for him to take a breath--of style, which is a different thing than voice.

Style is equivalent to dressing for an occasion, it is the clothing the story wears. Like voice, it leans some times on word choice, placement, a sense of rhythm and/or design; sometimes it may even impart the quality you find in voice that makes style so agreeable when it works. The quality of which you speak is heart, or perhaps connection, or resonance, or reverberation. Perhaps it is attitude, state of mind, the unspoken presence in subtext. Perhaps it is even all these things simultaneously;it is what represents the transcendental quality of spirit as opposed to mere text. This is the voice that calls, say Mozart or Cannonball Adderly, and particularly Maurice Ravel from the crowd, the force that makes Twain resonate while you could say of John Irving that he has always been two characters shy of a novel.

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