Sunday, October 22, 2006

The "Voice" of the Story

Dear Rejecter:

I got a recent rejection of a partial that noted the agent didn't like "the
voice of this story." As you surely know, writer's obsess over rejections
and try to read them like blueprints to tell us what to fix. What does
this mean? Can the "voice" be fixed - or should it? Are the odds high

that if one agent hated the voice others will too, or might one agent's
"bad voice" be another's favorite melody?

It could mean nothing. It might be a form letter answer. However,
voice is very important to a story, even if you have an omniscent
narrator. The wayyou choose words sets the tone, which should
line up with the story you want to tell. If you're writing a pot-boiler,
it has to have sort of dark and smoky undertones. That sort of

A second question - unless there's a limit of one to a customer. If
I've written a story that comes out at the same time as a in-the-news-daily

high profile, political scandal, and my story ([G-d] bless me - the
MS was finished and I started querying a short day or two before the
bru-ha-ha), will the scandal help or hurt the agent-attracting
If the story is related to the scandal or incredibly similar, you will probably get a lot of rejections. Prepare yourself for them and move on to another project while waiting.


Kimber Li said...

If it's 'voice,' I'd say it's highly subjective. I'd be thrilled to get that in a rejection letter. It means you HAVE a voice. Too many writers try too hard and end up losing their own unique 'voice.' So, you've got a 'voice' and this is a very good thing. Keep fine-tuning it and keep submitting it until you find an agent who goes crazy for it. It's better to be wierd than boring, I always say! (wink) Try reading the archives of other agents blogs too. I remember several on the subject of 'voice.' Pub Rants had a very good one.

Anonymous said...

I like you....that is your voice or style that comes out in this blog. I'm not refering to this particular blog...but, what I have read thus far. It's not too snarky and not extremely polite...somewhere in the middle. Also, you stick pretty close to the topic at hand (writing) and your not far off into a tangent.


New loyal reader!! :)

The Rejecter said...

Thank you very much!

Dave Fragments said...

As for the second part - having the bad luck to have reality intervene - well there is not much you can do about it.

I remember seeing the first trailer for Spider Man in 2000 and it electrified the entire theater audience with a helicopter caught in a spider web between the towers of the World Trade Center. When the movie came out, all the shots of the WTC were removed by the directors. It chopped the film and hurt the print but not doing so would have been unforgivable. The directors never complained.

Rashenbo said...

I agree with Kimber above, voice is very subjective. I've heard about a book and it received high props from others that are recommending it to me. I read the blurb on the back... the plot sounds interesting... I read the first page, and I'm still interested... I buy it. I get home. I settle down and wow, the voice just irritates the heck out of me. Either the author is trying to jump through hula hoops while structuring the syntax, or they use a phrase that I don't like or... I just plain 'ole can't "hear" them telling me the story.

Anonymous said...

can you take dave's photo out of his comments? i find it very creepy (no offense, dave, i just hate cropping).

i think your blog is great, even if i don't understand the early shift from 'rejector' to 'rejecter.'

between the agent-assisting, the mfa (columbia or nyu?), and the writing your own stuff, i wonder how you have time to blog at all. this is because i am very lazy.

Anonymous said...

"If you're writing a pot-boiler,it has to have sort of dark and smoky undertones."

I hate to be picky...well, no I don't! Actually, I LIKE to be picky, especially when people are holding forth about words, voice, and tone.

A 'pot-boiler' is not a genre or sub-genre, it is a piece of work untertaken solely for the money--that is, to keep the pot boiling on the stove (so the writer can eat). A "pot-boiler" could be a romance, a western, or just about any piece of hack work, and a number of Dumas' novels were pot-boilers--without any discernable smoky undertones.