Finding Voice

Books want to be born: I never make them. They come to me and insist on being written, and on being such and such. :Samuel Butler


Finding Voice

Finding your voice is perhaps one of the most difficult things a writer must do. It’s not as if you’ve lost it and it’s hiding under the bed, waiting to be rediscovered. And you can’t copy someone else’s. Your voice is the single most important element in your writing because it makes your work distinctly yours. It’s a combination of your style, your phrasing, your unique vernacular, and how you create tension and build plot. Put it in a blender, mix it up, and voila!, you have voice.

Everyone’s process of writing and finding their voice is different. This is how I developed Lola PI, and in the process developed my voice.

Know what kind of book you want to write. I wanted to write a book for women, and more importantly, a book with a strong female protagonist. I thought about what I like to read. Mysteries, romance, and romantic suspense top the list. The obvious decision for me was to blend mystery with romance. But I didn’t necessarily want to keep the hero and the heroine apart the way they must be in a strictly romance book. Knowing exactly what you want to write and what you are writing helps keep you on track–and minimizes major revisions and changes later.

Develop an interesting and likable character. My parents taught me to be an individual, to be self-sufficient and independent, to value myself. This is what I wanted from my character.

  • Knowing that I wanted a strong female protagonist was the first step in developing Dolores Cruz, aka Lola PI. I didn’t want to write her as an amateur detective because in my mind she needed to be driven, determined, and on the path to achieving her goal. So her passion became her desire to become a private investigator. The first book in the series, Living the Vida Lola, begins with Lola finishing her many required hours of internship with a licensed private investigator as required by the state of California. But she’s still a novice and nervous about solving her first big case as a lead investigator. I didn’t want Lola to live in a vacuum. She needed to be a well-rounded character and have other things going on in her life. Lola has to balance her career with her part-time job at her family’s restaurant, the demands of her family, and her love life. No easy feat.
  • Making Lola Mexican-American was a spontaneous, but natural decision. It’s a culture that is rich with family, language, and religion. Those values are not exclusive to the Hispanic culture, but ever since I married into a dynamic Mexican family, I’ve loved the distinct things that the culture has to offer. I wanted to portray what I love about the culture in a book, through Lola.

Develop a theme. Good must triumph over evil–that is the major theme in the mysteries I write. A recurring sub-theme of the Lola PI series became my heroine’s struggle to balance the responsibilities of her job as a private investigator and solving cases with her dynamic and demanding family and her love life. Never easy, but she has a lot of fun trying.

  • Other themes are bound to develop in the writing of a book, but knowing what message you want to convey is always the main theme. My upbringing consisted of family, books, conversation, and a lot of unconditional love. It’s no wonder then that the books I write center around the strength of family and love, no matter what else is going on. Family is the core of my life and will always be an underlying them in my books.

Figure out what your inspiration is. My husband is a first generation Mexican American whose native language was Spanish. He and his siblings (three brothers and three sisters) learned to speak English in the California school system. Their family is strong and successful, due to their upbringing, their parents, the values that were instilled in them, and the individual drive of each person. When my husband and his brothers and sisters were growing up family was valued, education was valued, and Church was valued, not necessarily in that order.

  • When I married into my husband’s family, their culture became part of me. I embraced it, as much for myself as for my children. I never wanted to be an outsider looking in on something I wasn’t a part of.
  • The characters from my book are inspired by my observations and experiences living as part of a large Mexican family. My sisters-in-law are Dolores Cruz to a certain extent. They are intelligent, fun, unique women and are the role models for my female characters just as my brothers-in-law are perfect examples of smart, diverse, thoughtful Mexican-American men.
  • I’m inspired to write about real people that are part of this wonderfully rich culture–people who belong to it, as well as people like me, who have embraced it in their lives.

Develop a tone. Once I had my character, the theme, and the inspiration, the tone naturally came. Lola is feisty and strong. She is self-deprecating. She is sexual, but her sexuality doesn’t define her. She is smart and not afraid to show it. And she can kick ass. She is independent and unique. All of these elements lend themselves to the tone of the book.

  • Lola’s view on life, experiences, and struggles give the books a Chick Lit bent. It’s a book geared toward women, about women.