THE RIGHT VOICE...

One of the worst moments when reading a novel, or even a short story, is when you are pulled out of it. It may be because of a word or phrase and you think 'hmmm that so isn't the character..or the setting..or the time period.'  And once you are out of the story, with a touch of disbelief entering the world the author has created, it is so hard to get back in. To once again, trust the writer. And that is what we do, we trust the writer, we are willingly taken on a ride. Taken on a journey.

But we have to believe. Have to totally be immersed in this world...whether it is our world right now, or a previous time...whether it's a futuristic or alien world...a fantastical imagination.  The author has to have created something that we willingly enter.

This is why making sure you are using the right voice to tell your story is vitally important. The voice for an adult is totally different to that of a child.


Everything is seen differently. From what is happening in the world (a child's narrow perspective of it) and what is happening around us with our family and friends.

One of my favourite books, and a great example of using a child's POV, is Annabel Pitcher's My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece. 


It's a story about family and grief and coping but more importantly it is about Jamie, and told from his ten-year-old viewpoint. Five years ago his sister was killed in a terrorist bombing. His mother has left, his father drinks, his sister Jas (twin to Rose) has dyed her hair bright pink and Jamie struggles to make sense of it all.

My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece.
Well, some of her does.
A collarbone, two ribs, a bit of a skull, and a little toe.

It's a child's perception of the world around him. Jamie barely remembers his sister Rose, he was five when she died and his family have turned her into a saint.

In fact she was quite bad and according to Jas she was naughty at school, but no one seems to remember that now she is all dead and perfect. 

As adults we know we tend to elevate those that have died in our memories. We remember the good moments, knowing it is bad to focus on the bad...yet for a child this is a form of lying. Why not tell the truth?

I love the way Pitcher uses language. Her writing is simple and clean, yet tugs at you. This is Jamie thinking of his mother.

Sometimes when I wake up, I forget that she's gone and then I remember and my heart drops like it does when you miss a step or trip over a kerb.

and this---

If guilt was an animal then it would be an octopus. All slimy and wriggly with hundreds of arms that wrap around your insides and squeeze them tight. 

No purple prose but we can feel what Jamie means. I love his innocence, his belief that things will work out.

I stared up at the sky and raised my middle finger, just in case God was watching. I don't like being spied on.

Jamie has to cope with a family falling apart, with a new school, being bullied and the only person willing to be his friend is Sunya...a muslim. He has been taught that Muslims' killed his sister..his father is adamant. They are to be avoided at all costs, not become your best friend.

If envy is red and doubt is black then happiness is brown. I looked from the little brown stone to the tiny brown freckle to her huge brown eyes. 

I willingly went with Jamie in this story. His way of looking at the world around him, his belief that his family will get back together and his life can change is so wrong, that when realisation strikes....we all feel for him.

This is storytelling at it's best. When the voice used is so authentic and so right. It would have been a totally different story if told from an adult's POV. Another angsty 'how do I cope with grief' tale...and there are some good and moving stories out there.

But telling this story from a ten year old's viewpoint allows us to see his family and so much of his life without censor.

To me this is a great reminder when writing to have clear idea whose story it is and to question whether you are using the right person to tell the story. More importantly, is their voice right?



Children see the world so differently than we do. The world, for a long long time, is centred around them and we are merely satellites to them.

It's great sometimes to just sit back and listen to how they talk. How they describe things, their use of language and their understanding of what is happening around them.

During Book Week I visited a local primary school and talked to a group of preps. I was dressed as a ladybug and one little girl came up and told me she was dressing up as one tomorrow too. All she wanted to do was tell me about her costume.  I told her to hold that thought, and she could tell me all about it when I'd finished my talk.

An hour later, after reading three stories and voting on favourite toys and books and much talk about building bikes out of pizzas, she rushed up to me and gave me a hug and said 'from one ladybug to another'.

I don't think she heard a single thing I said that entire time, she just wanted to share our ladybugness. 



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