Lyrical and Oratorical Voice

Lyrical and Oratorical Voice


Thanks to for the intro and outro music.

ASK THE AUTHOR: From Andy Clapp via the chat room! Do Aaron, Alton, and Molly find that when they are passionate about an idea that they have a sense of urgency to get it on paper…at least the bones of the project?

AARON: That’s a great question. I’d say yes. If I’m passionate about something, then I feel urgency to put something on paper. But I’m also meticulous, and I like things in order. It’s really tough for me to focus on several projects at once, so I tend to prioritize. Right now, I’m itching to finish the Hand of Adonai series so I can write a sci-fi that’s been eating at me for the better part of a year. Maybe more. But I’m passionate about Hand of Adonai, and that’s my priority right now. Then, I’ll move on to the sci-fi. Hope that helps!

AL: Passion for a project is one of the indicators I look for in a writing project. If it haunts me; if I think about while waiting to go to sleep; then I know the idea is one I should pursue. However, passion is an emotion and it can ebb and flow. So while passion may put my butt in my writing chair, it may melt under the heat of the actual work. So passion needs a partner: commitment–the discipline to carry the project to its completion. While short works may not be that demanding, book-length work does.

MOLLY: Yes, absolutely. My favorite quote is from Isaac Asimov- “I write for the same reason I breathe. Because if I didn’t, I would die.” That doesn’t mean I write the entire manuscript, but I will keep folders of notes and ideas to return to. I’m always very excited when I get writing ideas.

Firsts in Fiction


Voice is perhaps the trickiest aspect in fiction. Most writers work for years to “find their voice.” Voice is the culmination of personal style. We can read sections of novels and know immediately who wrote it based on their voice. This includes vocabulary, the use (or nonuse) of adverbs and adjectives, the types of sentences and variety of sentence structures, etc. Most writers will find their “sweet spot” eventually, but it can take a while. (Think of a golfer working to find just the right swing for him, or a baseball pitcher practicing and practicing until he has just the right grip and arm motion.)

Tonight, we’re going to look at the final two “types” of common voices. It’s important to note that your voice will be a combination of these basic types. Some are more lyrical than natural (Fitzgerald). Others are far more natural than oratorical (Hemingway, say). But all authors, at some point, move between voices. How much and how often is what results in that author’s voice.

  • Lyrical Voice
    • Poetic and sensory; taste, smell, sight, sound, feel.
    • Focus on imagery, rhythm.
    • Slows down the prose, useful for distraction from tense moments, or to heighten silences, romantic moments, etc.
      • Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way:
        I found it all humming with the smell of the hawthorns. The hedge formed a series of chapels that disappeared under the litter of their flowers, heaped into wayside altars; below them, the sun was laying down a grid of brightness on the ground, as if it had just passed through a stained-glass window; their perfume spread as unctuous, as delimited in its form as if I were standing before the altar of the Virgin, and the flowers, themselves adorned also, each held out with a distracted air its sparkling bunch of stamens, delicate radiating ribs in the flamboyant style like those which, in the church, perforated the balustrade of the rood screen or the mullions of the window and blossomed out into the white flesh of a strawberry flower.
    • Use of poetic devices and figurative language is highly encouraged.
      • Sound devices:
        • Alliteration: multiple words (usually consecutive) beginning with the same letter (or sound) the “humming hawthorne” or “foreboding forest” or “ancient ambition”
        • Assonance: repeated vowel sounds. Like rhyme, but not true rhymes. “Heave and heal and heap”
        • Consonance: repeated consonant sounds: Clack and clank and clock and block and common
        • Onomatopoeia: Sound words–sounds converted into words: bang, woof, quack, etc.) (I like to use these as verbs): The lock clacked closed. His heart cracked, etc.
      • Imagery: detailed description of all five senses. Take time to stop and smell the roses. BE SPECIFIC
        • Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch
        • Synesthesia (describing something experienced with one sense in context of another sense). Examples: “The lights in the room dropped an octave. His shirt screeched yellow. Her voice was a pleasing aroma.”
      • Figurative Language:
        • Simile: comparison using like or as: “bounced like a dropped ball.” “The jet dove like a hawk on its prey.”
        • Personification: giving human characteristics to nonhuman things: “The angry sea swallowed the sailor.” The sea feels no emotion like anger but it looks angry.
        • Juxtaposition: the pairing of two seemingly unrelated things: The unimaginable weight of nothing. A crushing hope. Living to die. Etc.
        • Metaphor: a comparison not using like or as: In the summer of their love. In the autumn of his life. It is refers to one thing by mentioning a different thing.  “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” (As You Like It, William Shakespeare) Extended metaphor: A metaphor that continues to compare:
          • Words, words, words! How they gallop! How they lash their long manes and tails!
          • This was the spring of their love, when life was new and breathed deeply, when the smells of new flowers perfumed the air with nectar and honeysuckle, when their lips met like petals on a flower. (I don’t know. I’m just making stuff up here).
          • Now, put it all together: “It came on great oiled, resilient, striding legs. It towered thirty feet above half of the trees, a great evil god, folding its delicate watchmaker’s claws close to its oily reptilian chest. Each lower leg was a piston, a thousand pounds of white bone, sunk in thick ropes of muscle, sheathed over in a gleam of pebbled skin like the mail of a terrible warrior. Each thigh was a ton of meat, ivory, and steel mesh. And from the great breathing cage of the upper body those two delicate arms dangled out front, arms with hands which might pick up and examine men like toys, while the snake neck coiled. And the head itself, a ton of sculptured stone, lifted easily upon the sky. Its mouth gaped, exposing a fence of teeth like daggers. Its eyes rolled, ostrich eggs, empty of all expression save hunger. It closed its mouth in a death grin. It ran, its pelvic bones crushing aside trees and bushes, its taloned feet clawing damp earth, leaving prints six inches deep wherever it settled its weight.” – Ray Bradbury, “A Sound of Thunder”


  • Oratorical Voice
    • To be read and sung, the voice of speeches
    • Makes use of contrasts (I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him) parallel structure (I have a dream that … I have a dream that…)
    • Lists of three (Education, edification, and emancipation).
    • Combine and contrast lists (contrast a third item with the first two: “We shall negotiate for it, sacrifice for it, but never surrender for it.”–Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Speech 1981)
    • Best if not overused
      • Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities:
        It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to heaven, we were all going the other way.
      • Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
        There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
  • Moving between voices
    • Just as your speech changes when your emotions fluctuate, so should the voice change with the tone of the prose. What voice best represents the feeling of the work at that particular moment?
    • Write the same scene in different voices. Which one sounds the most appropriate? Why?
    • Switch voices when you switch perspectives. Voice can help demonstrate how a character views the world, and how he/she interacts with that world.

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