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Hearing Voices

I've just started reading Anna Quindlen's new book, Every Last One and have Yann Martel's Beatrice and Virgil waiting for me at the library. Each of these books reflects the author's ouevre, that vein in which they mine stories which reflect their perspective of the world. I read reviews of both books around the same time and quickly ordered them from the library because I am a fan of both authors.

These disparate books got me wondering about how an author chooses their slice of the universe, whether in form of genre or theme. Anna Quindlen's literary career has been built on novels that explore the world of home and the dramas of everyday life. She scrutinizes the mundane, often unobserved moments, and describes how sudden events can change the otherwise well-managed course of our lives. Yann Martell creates stories with a fantastic Aesop-like quality where animals step in for humans to present morality tales and explore timeless ethical conundrums.

I understand that an idea for a story may come to an author's mind and they ask themselves, 'what if?' and so begins the story. My question is, when the author then writes several novels within the same theme, are they asking themselves the same question again and again? Is it a conscious decision to stay within the parameters of that idea? Is there ever a temptation to venture out in another direction? Does an author say to themselves, "I want to write chick-lit, or sci-fi fantasy, or literary fiction, because...."?

Going deeper, I want to know if an author chooses their voice? For instance did Gabriel Garcia Marquez consciously determine that he wanted to write in lyrical style of magic realism, or was it as innate and immutable as the color of his eyes? Does an author choose a commercial voice over a literary one? Or is their writing voice not a matter of choice, but one which finds a home in a genre only after the book is done? I would love to write a cozy mystery as much as magic realism, each for different reasons, and each would be equally gratifying. Do other writers feel this way?

Yes, yes, I am grateful for the diversity of our literary world. I simply want to know the how and why of its impetus.


larramiefg said…
Authors might but would their editors, agents allow them?
Anonymous said…
Man, I guess I have the opposite problem to chosing a voice...i find that if I try, I stil end up sounding the same. Which really annoys the blazes out of me. It's like thinking I can sing and discovering I am tone deaf. I am not fishing for compliments when i say that I'm truly not sure that my own voice is that interesting to others, because it sometimes bores *me*. I read some of what I write and think, "oh, do shut UP!" I think it's a style thing that I can modify a little bit, but somehow there is a core beheath that which still (to my ears at least,) sounds like me. I guess the best thing I can do is learn to like it, and carry on regardless.
Keetha said…
I would think most authors write and in time, develop a voice and tone they're most comfortable with. A good friend of mine writes in the prettiest, lyrical prose with touches of magical realism. I love it but I can't do it.
Anonymous said…
i think these just be questions every author has to ask themself. if they are lucky they get to write true to what their inner voice is telling them.

my verification word is "blesses"

how nice is that?
Anonymous said…
Keep writing. Apply the critique, brainstorming etc after. Otherwise you'll be beating yourself up on not getting your 100k words done. although my thought would be, if teh story is doen at 95k, hell, stop. Gilding the lily has a limited platform: think Le Petit Prince, not Proust.
Not sure where this outburst came from, but hey, for what it's worth, I'm cheering you on to the finish line.

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