The voice of a story or a character is better experienced than explained. So I picked a few from the seven books I pulled off the shelf.
Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy
Gordon Edgley's sudden death came as a shock to everyone—not least himself. One moment he was in his study, seven words into the twenty-fifth sentence of the final chapter of his new book And the Darkness Rained upon Them, and the next he was dead. A tragic loss, his mind echoed numbly as he slipped away.
Already I know that this is going to be a fun romp. This is not the main character, so we don't have a character voice, but the voice of the story. If I don't chuckle at least once per chapter in this book I will be very disappointed. If I want humor, fun and adventure, I'm in the right place.
Mistborn, by Bradon Sanderson
Ash fell from the sky.
Vin watched the downy flakes drift through the air. Leisurely. Careless. Free. The puffs of soot fell like black snowflakes, descending upon the dark city of Luthadel. They drifted in corners, blowing in the breeze and curling in tiny whirlwinds over the cobblestones. They seemed so uncaring. What would that be like?
I've got five words for this one: Dark, dreary, deep, precipice and beautiful.
The tone is dark, the world dreary, as is the character's tone. Both the writing and the point of view that the character is looking out from is deep, thoughtful and bleak. Still, I already feel like Vin, whomever she is, is about to be thrust onto a precipice of her life, one that will change her. The writing is also beautiful, which means I'm in for a real treat as a reader.
Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein
I always get the shakes before a drop. I've had the injections, of course, and hypnotic preparation, and it stands to reason that I can't really be afraid. The ship's psychiatrist has checked my brain waves and asked me silly questions while I was asleep and he tells me that it isn't fear, it isn't anything important—it's just like the trembling of an eager race horse in the starting gate.
I couldn't say about that; I've never been a race horse. But the fact is: I'm scared silly, every time.
Here we have the brutal honestly of a first person point of view. This one dives straight to the heart of every reader on the planet, because who hasn't been scared even after someone else has told them there's nothing to worry about? Dad says there aren't monsters under the bed, but that doesn't stop my pounding heart each night as I try to go to sleep and hear the creaking of the floorboards. Just these first few lines let me know that whatever this book is about, I'm going to understand it intimately, because the character has already established that he might be afraid of the drop, but he's not afraid to be honest with himself.
With each of these examples, I already know how I will feel when I'm reading these stories. Readers are often looking for a specific emotional experience as they read, and the beginning of your story should give them a taste for what is coming.
This is one of the biggest factors in selling a story, it is also the mark of an author that has put in a great deal of effort toward their craft.
What novel have you read that has a voice that drew you in right away?
Next time: So He's a Vampire, so What?