Writers and Voice

So I'm back to watching American Idol. After being away for a few years, I'm pleasantly surprised. The judges, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick, Jr., are all insightful and unfailingly polite and kind. .   even to try-outers who don't deserve it. What I really like is how they try to help those who need a push in another direction.

What I've noticed, too, is how much they're swayed by a distinctive style, be it in the choice of outfit, how the hopefuls present themselves, and how they perform a song. Jennifer Lopez said tonight she was impressed with one try-outer's rendition of a familiar song, making it her own. They look for a unique package, one that's not mundane or "safe." Hmmm, makes me think of writers, and how they present themselves.

With us, it's called "voice." It's something that comes from deep within you, and you can either fight it (which never works), or you can throw it down and see where it takes you. Can you imagine Elmore Leonard writing in a style different from the one we have read for a long time now? Or Lee Child? There's that elusive quality that goes beyond good writing and great storytelling into the ephemeral that makes a writer stand out.

Not every writer with this unique quality will appeal to everyone. I'm going to quit reading a book now (which shall remain nameless, because it's well-reviewed and clearly a labor of love), because I can't stand the author's voice. Just rubs me the wrong way. The good news is, I'm not apathetic. The bad news is, I'm quitting on the book. Something I never do, by the way. But I have to give the author props for rising above the ho-hum.

So many books are workmanlike. Well crafted. Solid story. But they don't have that spark, that voice that tells me this author knows exactly who she is as a writer and isn't afraid to show it.