April 17, 2015

Voice in Fiction

By Peggy Webb AKA Elaine Hussey

Much ink is spilled about the basics of writing. You’ll find endless posts about characters, plot, pacing, setting, and the fine art of knowing when to use dialogue versus description.  But how often do you hear a writer talk about magic, that often indefinable element that makes a story rise above all others?

I’ve been writing for a very long time (since 1985), and I remember so clearly what friends told me when they read my first book. “Peggy, it was like sitting on your front porch swing, listening to you talk.” “I would have picked that book out as yours even if I hadn’t seen your name on the cover.” “Reading it felt like being with you; it felt like being in the middle of the story.” Heady stuff, that kind of validation. And what did
it all mean?

When I write, I lose myself in the story; I don’t think about the process. Editors describe me as an organic writer, one who lets the story flow, one who is not afraid to depart from the normal course of things and follow where the story takes me. Still, I’ve taught many writing workshops, and I’ve taught at Mississippi State University. In order to teach, I had to analyze what worked and why. I had to peel back the veil and decipher
the magic.

The easy part of teaching is laying out the basic elements of story. The hard part is explaining voice. “Is it the way the characters talk?” students ask. Yes…and no. “Is it using an omniscient narrator?” Yes…and no.

Here’s what I know about voice: it’s an attitude, powerful and unique, that shines
through the writing. It’s a way of inhabiting characters so the reader can identify each one
without the need for tags - Billie said, Mama said, Jim said.  It transforms the story and compels the reader to turn pages. Voice is a bit of magic.

If you have a copy of my novel, The Sweetest Hallelujah written as Elaine Hussey, turn to pages 14 and 15 to “hear” the voice.

Currently I’m pouring that bit of magic into two projects, another literary fiction novel written as Elaine Hussey (no details yet) and Stars to Lead Me Home, a women’s fiction novel written as Peggy Webb. Stars to Lead Me Home is slated for a June release. I love the cover, love the concept, and am very excited to bring this book to you!

It has been such a pleasure to visit with you today. To learn more about my books and also about my writing process, do visit my websites, and  You can view my mini-writing class videos on both websites and chat with me about books on my blog, . Periodically, I do wonderful giveaways which are announced on my blog and my social media pages.
USA Today bestselling author Peggy Webb is the most prolific writer the state of Mississippi has ever produced. This award-winning author has written more than 70 books, 200 magazine humor columns and two screenplays. She writes in multiple genres, including literary fiction as Elaine Hussey. Her acclaimed literary fiction novel, The Sweetest Hallelujah, garnered praise from critics who dubbed her one of the “Southern literary greats” and compared her to Harper Lee and Flannery O’Connor. As Elaine, she is a member of the prestigious, invitation-only literary organization, PEN. A former adjunct instructor at Mississippi State University, Peggy lives in a turn-of-the-century cottage where she loves gardening, playing piano, singing in church choir and sipping sweet tea on her front porch with friends.  Follow the author at and as well as on FaceBook and Twitter.


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