Friday, April 29, 2016

The Secret to Dual Voice Novels

Writing a novel is hard, time consuming, aggravating at times, daunting at others, but many do it and do it well. But some escalate the challenge of novel writing by writing in a dual voice. The trick is making each voice distinct and each character different. Making the characters dissimilar, I feel is the easy part, but making the voice of each character distinct is the real challenge.

Some dual voice novels that I read are:

NICK & NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, a collaborative work with a male and female main character having a romantic Manhattan middle-of-the-night first date.

ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell has written a male and female main character (talk about upping the ante!) about a girl falling in love with a boy for the first time. It is insightful and fun to read Park’s perspective about his latest encounters with Eleanor.

In THE MADMAN OF PINEY WOODS by Christopher Paul Curtis, a novel I recently finished reading, both main characters are boys and share a similar experience of seeing a rare, if not mystical, creature in the woods. I will use this novel as an example as it is fresh in my mind.

Benjamin “Benji” is an African American boy who has an intact family (mother, father, sister, brother), lives in Buxton, a lower socioeconomic town, and his goal is to be a newspaperman. He loves and envy’s his siblings for their brains and creativity. He has a teasing personality, is street smart and sometimes is afraid of his brilliant, but cunning sister who has threatened mutilation in the dead of night if Benji ever calls her “Ninah,” a nickname his sister despises.

Alvin “Red” is a white Irish boy with a shattered family. Most of his relatives died either in the Great Potato Famine or from disease while crossing the Atlantic. He lives in Chatham, a middle class town, with his father and grandmother who beats him unjustly for evil plans she thinks he is hatching. He wants to be a scientist, has a serious personality, doesn’t always know when Benji is teasing him and is book smart.

If we look at sentence structure, both characters have short sentences and many sentences over 40 plus words. Both characters use analogies. But whereas Benji’s character has a casual voice with some grammatically incorrect sentences and many supporting characters speaking in broken or clipped English, Alvin’s style is more formal and frequently uses scientific terminology.

There are several outstanding dual voice novels published and the best way to master this art is to study those novels.







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