Voice

I’ve been struggling with voice for a while, now.

My “other” writing is non-fiction. While there’s a huge market for narrative non-fiction, I write technical non-fiction. It’s the epitome of voicelessness. 

I strive for the anonymous, almost invisible, narrator of science journals. The voice that doesn’t provide anything beyond the facts and the technical interconnections. And the editors assure that I achieve that kind of impersonal, distant coldness.

“What does it sound like?” you might ask, if you were trying to be polite. Exactly like this blog. Low-key, no-drama, laconic, specific.

I worry about my fiction being too much grim, dark, and gritty. Too much like non-fiction. 

If my fictional narrative is too large, what should I cut? How can I restructure things to leap from drama to drama. How much of the introductory chapters can be pared away, leaving only the set pieces with great scenery and sword-fights?

I’ve had a lot of rejections. Cutting seemed to be in order.

Recently, I revisited some of my inspiration. Herman Melville, and Richard Henry Dana: Moby-Dick and Two Years Before the Mast. These are meticulous, grim, dark, gritty, detailed narratives. While Moby-Dick is fiction, it’s based on historical events, and describes an American industry in obsessive detail. Dana’s book is memoir, but is fascinatingly detailed.

See Moby Dick and the Crimes of the Economy for more about an industry based on the unsound idea that natural resources were inexhaustible. The views of whalemen can be taken as criminal.

While I’ve had a lot of rejections, I don’t think I can cut The Forge down. I see advice about cutting dialog back to the essential elements. Advice about paring the story down to the core interactions among the characters leaves me with a profound internal struggle.

I don’t (and can’t) aspire to write like Melville. I can, however, draw inspiration from attention to detail. For this story, the details matter.

The voice of Melville, narrating the details of a long, complex, and destructive journey appeals to me. I really think I want to keep the pacing I have. I like grim, dark, gritty, detailed, and immersive.

I think there’s a market for Moby-Dick hunted by Mages and Knights. I think I need to add this to the pitch to make it clear to potential agents that the story isn’t intended to be fun, conventional YA fantasy. It’s intended to be a cold, laconic recitation of things that may be horrifying. The narrator is giving you the events, not telling you how to feel about them.

 © F. L. Stevens 2019