So, as I mentioned in my post over at Squad365, “Revising to Land an Agent,” I’m undertaking another revision of Dodging and Burning before I continue with my plan to submit the manuscript to agents. The focus of my revision is on voice.
The main concern, at this point, is that I distinguish between the voices of the two narrators who share the story. In the original feedback I received, several of my trusted readers felt that I needed to make the two voices more distinct. I thought I had accomplished this over the summer—but after I received feedback from Jeff Kleinman, an agent at Folio Literary Management, I realized that I had to dig in and go deeper with the revision.
So, I needed a plan. Voice is something so organic and so a part of character that you can’t fake it. I couldn’t simply distinguish between the voices by giving one of the characters a verbal tick or colloquial mannerism. There had to be a significant reason why one woman sounded different from the other, even though they were both close to the same age and from the same region in Virginia. My good friend (and reader) Rebecca Borden suggested that I should “think about what each [character] had gone through in the space between the first story and the end frame, and how that might have affected the way they talk and behave.” I think this was great advice, because it had to do with character, not style.
The first thing I needed to do was to consider tone. I had to distinguish between my two characters’ attitudes toward their past, particularly the incidents which concern the story. For instance, Martha, the voice I’m primarily concerned with, needs to have a passionate, at times exuberant, tone. Even as an old woman, her imagination still tosses and turns restlessly. Once I identified my narrators’ tones, then I had to decide how those attitudes would translate into style: Martha’s voice would have less control than the other narrator’s, and her sentences would wander a bit, closer to stream-of-consciousness. She would also repeat words at exciting moments, creating a passionate rhythm to her voice. Etc.
I allowed the stylistic qualities to grow from the emotional concerns of the character, which—at least so far—feels like the right choice.