Capturing Voice

I’m reading Velva Jean Learns to Drive, a novel by Jennifer Niven. It’s my wife’s book. I picked it up because it’s set in the Blue Ridge Mountains (where we live) and tells about the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Niven tells the story from the point of view of her main character, Velva Jean, who is about ten years old as the book begins. I’m always skeptical about how first-person tales will work, especially in a child’s voice. It can distract me. Or I can simply lose interest early on. But Niven has the voice down. Velva Jean and the story have pulled me in.

I was thinking about voice today as I listened to a recording of a recent interview. My job is to write something for the interviewee, in his words, in his voice. That can be hard. But having his voice and words on tape make the job easier. I can listen. I can arrange his spoken words onto the page and screen.

Hopefully, when he reads what I put together, he’ll hear himself. And hopefully, when the wider audience reads the final product, his voice and message will come across and spur action.


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