Deep Prose and Clear Voice

(pulled from a note to a CP)

My main focus for vocal depth is finding places that need a boost to elevate the prose from (blocking and action) to “literature.”

Not just facts, but poetry.

The first layer is “What’s a cooler/more interesting way to X…?”

Second layer is “What’s a way to tie this description/phrase to the story theme/aesthetic/tone/plot?”

Third layer, and the only one that gets approval** for my own work into final drafts, is “How/what does X (description/phrase) mean to my narrator/speaker, and how would They frame X?”

**because no matter how awesome a phrase might be, if it doesn’t sound like it comes from my narrator’s voice, then it could throw the reader off at worst, but will weaken a reader’s connection to the narrator at best.

Page by page, I seek out a wide-angle thematic balance, and–when possible– book-wide character themes. Like, say romantic interest has a hard personality but a vulnerable ego, then I might craft their descriptions to relay that directly or indirectly by which devices I choose (maybe they’re compared to melons or maybe I just keep adjectives about their physical actions “crisp and brittle” while keeping descriptions of their voice “soft”).

I tend to go broad with these when it comes to characterization or repeat settings, sticking with things like seasons or basic elements (water, fire, +), so it doesn’t feel forced or too obvious.Also, the broader the theme, the greater span of sensory experiences and vocabulary range to use in expanding the character’s visceral reactions and word choice.

Random thing, but it’s best, for most readers apparently, to save the most intense descriptive language for moments when the narrator is first describing something (unless that scene is very active), or when it’s an emotional moment that the language can help bolster with “this is important” energy.

Hot tip: use your narrator’s zoom lens to spot concrete details, flaws, or specificity, rather than trying to describe everything anew or “completely.” Better to describe a character’s lone mismatched button than their entire outfit. Even when the narrative point is “excess,” attention can get lost easily in lists of facts, so the zoom is a writer’s best friend in that regard.


When Your First Tries Flop

I suck at firsts.

  • First song (a holiday card poem Weird Al’d into an old hymn)
  • First epic poem (anyone else remember Prodigy? Way back before AOL? Well, that’s where I posted it then promptly forgot my password.)

    First Forums!
  • First short story (Don’t get me started; children should not be blamed for their upbringing, after all)
  • First stab at a novel (“Never bring up the horny nun. It wins you NO points in life.”)


  • First full-length novel (molding in my nightstand so it can haunt me better)


  • First query (Seriously. Why did I think I was ready to hit send? *Wears official nametag of “Time Waster” for a month in shame*)


  • First critique group (I love you, Bud Humble, but I will not type that team name)


  • First time as an Ubergroup captain (Over-ambitious? Who me? I want to learn everything yesterday!!)


So now that my first attempt to revolutionize the beta swap process crashed and burned, I’m forcing my face into that scrunched-up squint scowl that’s supposed to mean “I’m determined to get this right,” because my second attempts, and those thereafter, well… Rewrites and revisions are what I do!


I’ll post next week what I mean and what my experiment with the beta process is all about. In the meantime, do you have an embarrassing first that drives you to improve? Tell me about it!