View Full Version : Question regarding YA voice

03-13-2008, 09:51 PM
I'm not sure where this post should go, so I decided to start here.

I'm not sure (being new to writing with the hope of publication) if my whole concept for my YA novel is just a whacked up mess, because I'm not sure I fully understand what is meant by "voice".

When my city girl meets her country cousins, they're sort of a cross between the beverly hillbillies and Ma and Pa Kettle types. But the MC takes herself seriously.

Throughout the story there is a lot of foolish nonsense and misadventure, but with undertones of seriousness - flying into a tree a breaking numerous body parts is pretty serious, after all. But the cousins' approach to this type of stuff is pretty nonchalant because that's just how they live.

Towards the end of the book, a very serious situation occurs involving the MC, and it's probably going to be unexpected to the reader, even though I've thrown in subtle hints along the way.

So the tone of the story gets fairly serious while she figures out how she will respond to this bombshell, and the whole story gets pretty intense for a while.

My question is this. Does this work for YA? Or does it work at all? I just don't know if I'm wasting my time if it's a big mistake in the writing industry. I think I've pulled it off successfully, but I'm still second guessing myself.

Would really appreciate any suggestions from someone who might have a grasp of this situation. Thanks.

Oh, and if I need to post it somewhere else, that would be helpful to know also.


03-13-2008, 09:56 PM
Here is just fine, if discussion gets tek-nikal it's no problem to move the thread to another forum where you might get a broader range of responses.

I wish I knew the answer to your question! Alas...


03-13-2008, 11:01 PM
It seems to me that voice and tone are different. Voice is what we imagine the narrator is like, whereas tone is the general mood of the scene. With that in mind it is common for the tone to change throughout the novel, but rare for the voice to change (though there are lots of examples of voice changing, they tend to be grown up novels by serious authors)

In my opinion, there's no problem with YA novels changing to a darker tone suddenly. There's lots of this in fact, like in 'the Bridge to Terabithia." Thats the only one I can think of at the moment, but I'm sure I've read others. Oh wait; "A Separate Peace." (ack, I hate that one) Or even the "Harry Potter" series. Part of being a young adult is that its a time of great change. Therefore I think its very appropriate for yours to go that way.

I hope that helps.

03-14-2008, 12:26 AM
I see tone vs. voice as a book vs. author thing.

I feel like tone can vary from story to story, whereas voice is the way that the author him- or herself writes--the sentence structure, words, flow, etc. Of course, this can change too, but not as dramatically, IMO.

As for tone changes working, I think just about anything can work in YA so long as you're in control of it. And for your specific situation, well--think about it this way: LIFE can turn dark suddenly. So why not a novel?

Best of luck.

03-14-2008, 01:06 AM
Thank you so much Derek, Sarpedon and Daimeera. I think you answered my questions satisfactorily. Now I have to see if there's anything left to work with after I finish removing adjectives and adverbs. Just started reading The First Five Pages. My gosh, if I do what they suggest my book is going to be one chapter long!

Thanks again for the input.


03-14-2008, 01:17 AM
Just a quick caveat; My post is based on nuffin but my own opinion. I know nothing about what the writing industry or publishers think about this.

Aggy B.
03-14-2008, 01:47 AM
I agree with what was said above in regard to voice and tone. I would also like to add that, IMO, there is a difference between the writers voice and the character's voice.

Every character should speak, think and act in a (relatively) individual way. This is because every person is different, therefore every character is different. However, the writer may choose to have a character that has speech patterns that are at odds with the writer's overall "voice" in telling the story. In other words, the writer's "voice" is the way they put things down on paper: short choppy sentences or long flowing passages, word choice, sentence structure, and so on. This plays into how the writer gives his or her characters their voice, but it is not absolute. (Otherwise all the characters would sound the same.)

Tone is also related to the writer's voice but relates more directly to theme and action. Some scenes are funny and the tone will likely be light, while other scenes are more dramatic and necessitate a more intense tone. (Unless you are writing a spoof of some sort in which case this all might be turned on its head for comic effect.) Good stories/books should have varying tone because otherwise the reader will get bored or simply overwhelmed. (I stopped reading the Sword of Truth books by Terry Goodkind for this very reason. It was all so intense and dramatic that I couldn't enjoy reading it.) Even with a thriller which has to maintain a certain sense of pace the whole thing cannot be written with the same intensity. There has to be a build-up and climax or the reader will be disappointed.

And, lastly, in regard to YA fiction and serious themes cropping up. There are plenty of books with intense and serious sections. Across Five Aprils, Where the Red Fern Grows and Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry are just a few examples.

So, I wouldn't worry about the MC being put in a more adult situation even if the rest of the book has been less intense. I think that's kind of the point of YA books, to present that "coming of age" moment (whatever it may) as a serious and inevitable occurrence.

Just my (very unprofessional) thoughts.

03-14-2008, 04:38 AM
It's been my experience that genre refers more to how the story is told than what the story is about... You could write this story in a very dark, explicit way and it would appeal to adults. Or you could write it in a more YA way. I think it just depends on your concept. I hope this helps.

ETA: I've read/seen plenty of weirdo stories that I thought were brilliant, and I wonder how the heck the writer was able to pitch it to an agent. So don't be afraid of your concept. I think anything can be done if the writer can pull it off. :)

03-14-2008, 05:39 AM
If you think writing the book is hard- wait until you try writing the query letter- ohh- sorry, I've spent to much time in query hell recently.:tongue

03-14-2008, 06:08 AM
Oh, you don't have to tell me about old Query Hell. I've tried writing about fifteen queries for this story - I don't think it's possible! Of course, I can't tell a person good morning in less that twenty-five sentences, so it's no wonder I can't compress a book into three short paragraphs.

Thanks to everyone so much for all your help. I have to go put a cranky child to bed, but I'll be back tomorrow to award reps to all.