Voice: WhichFlavor Are You?

I have this thing for ice cream. If it's in the house, I'm helpless to resist it. Which is strange, because I once went years (my thinnest years; hmmm... wonder if there could be a correlation) without eating it after working in an ice cream parlor one summer and gorging myself sick.

But I digress. My point is, when asked to define the elusive literary term "voice," I've come to give an answer related to flavors of ice cream, for the following reasons.

1. New ice cream flavors take time to develop. In R&D departments nationwide, recipes are tweaked, taste-tested, and refined over a long period of time. An author's voice (since it is singular) takes years to develop and thousands of pages to clarify. But eventually, the writer's personality shines through, superceding all the homages to other authors' flavors.

2. Sometimes a consumer's in the mood for one flavor or another. I might walk into an ice cream parlor and choose black raspberry one day, peach-vanilla another, or chocolate chip mint, depending on my whim. This doesn't make one flavor better than another -- and it also explains a lot of book reviews, since reviewers don't get to choose their reads in accordance with their wishes of the moment.

3. Some flavors, such as vanilla or chocolate, appeal to most consumers, but others (chocolate-covered strawberry, black cherry-vanilla, cinnamon pecan, and even cantaloupe) develop cult followings who consume all that they can. There are tons of authors out there who become successful due to a devoted (or one might say rabid) fanbase, but only if the author's voice is sufficiently distinctive.

4. Strong flavors elicit strong reactions, while the milder types are liked a lot (but not necessarily loved emphatically) by many. If your writing voice is strong and unique, people are either going to adore your work or despise it. Forget about the ones who hate it (I am never going to like coffee ice cream or certain authors, for that matter). Target the affections of the ones who do.

Goofy question of the day: So if your writing were an ice cream flavor, what would it be? Something sweetly delicious, complex and resonant, tartly cool (hello, lime sherbet!)? Or are you more of a Neapolitan, with several flavors combined in one carton.


Suzan Harden said…
Dang, girl! I'm glad I ate lunch before reading this, or I'd be headed to Kroger's right now.

Hmmm... I'd have to say my voice most closely resembles B&J's Coffee Almond Fudge. Slightly bitter, rich cream tempered with velvety chocolate with a nutty surprise.
Lark said…
Good question. Dark chocolate chipolte?

Definitely not to everyone's taste.
Now you all are making *me* hungry.

I think I'd answer Blue Bell Tin Roof, (vanilla ice cream with ribbons of dark chocolate) and nuts. Because... I guess because I include sweet romance, dark suspense, and a mystery that drives readers nuts. ;)
endrene said…
I'd be Ragin' Cajun, my all time favorite ice cream... smooth buttery caramel pecan with a ribbon of cayenne pepper right through it. Spicy ice cream.

Talk about needing a cult following to survive.
Oh, yum. Ragin' Cajun sounds fabulous. My mouth's watering (esp. since my beloved chocolate gives me migraines).

Ironically, this afternoon, a young student I'm helping with reading brought me a quart of Marble Slab vanilla - since her mom wasn't sure what I'd like and figured that for a safe bet.

It was! Yum. But since I declared myself on a diet earlier this week, I've had half a carrot cake and a quart of the richest, most delicious ice cream out there show up on my doorstep. And it would be so totally unfair to the givers to ignore them. VBG

Guess I'll be walking farther tomorrow morning.
Tessy said…
Since I haven't been able to eat Ice Cream in years (7 to be exact--allergies) I must say if I had to pick a flavor for my writing...I think it would have to be Toffee...the relationships, predictaments, and loves stories get sticky, but they're sweet!
Christie Craig said…
Okay, I'm at a loss at the flavor I write. But I agree, books are like ice cream and mixed genres are like chocolate with rasberry swirls.

Great post.

Jo Anne said…
A combo of dark chocolate almond fudge and coconut mixed together creates an ice cream much like an Almond Joy - dark, rich, nutty and sweet. And Lark - dark chocolate chipolte!! Yum!! I, for one, would love it.
I feel sure your flavor would be chock full of nuts and sweet surprises. :)

I grieve for your loss. I haven't been able to eat chocolate for about that long, and it's too sad.

Jo Anne,
The Almond Joy flavor description made my mouth water. I'm going to put all of you to work for Blue Bell.

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