Returning readers of this blog may recall that I have to pick a theme song before I start a new book. I've got one in mind, so it's time to start finding the right voice. That's where things get tricky.
I start with the given that my main characters are average people who suddenly find themselves in unusual situations. In the book I just finished writing (THE CALLER, coming out in the spring of 2014) the main role is shared by 2 girls and a guy, each one rather avearge and all three of them facing the same problem. In the new one I'm starting this month, the lead will be a guy, about 17 or so, who's a senior in high school and about to get himself involved in a whole mess of trouble. He can't be a whimppy guy since he's going to have to do a lot of bad things, but I don't want a stereotype bad-ass guy with that cliche heart of gold. No, he's got to be just an average guy who makes some bad choices and has to do some bad things because of it. So I get an image in my head and then let him sit in there for a while, thinking about how he'd react to everyday situations. When I'm stuck in traffic, I wonder how he'd deal with it. When I walk through the mall I wonder what he'd notice. When I watch TV, I wonder about what he'd watch. When I order pizza, I think about what he'd order. I'll admit, it gets kindda creepy having a second person in your head all the time - think of the things you do when you don't want someone else around and you'll know what I mean - but by two weeks I think I know the guy pretty well.
Now I'm assuming you paid attention in your English classes1 so I won't be defining what I mean by voice, but finding it is what comes next in the process. The book's going to be in 3rd person2 but I spend a lot of time thinking about how the character would tell his story. That gives me an idea of the "feel" I want for the voice - grittty or polished, sarcastic or honest, flippent or earnet ... that sort of thing. I've tried a bunch of options out, writing a random scene in the voice and deciding if it fits or not. I've eliminated a lot of them and am narrowing in on the voice I think will be right for this book. It's a time-consuming process, but once I get that voice right, the words come pretty quick. Quick for me, anyway.
That's how I find a book's voice - how do you do it?