Last week I took a trip to London for work. Thanks to long waits and longer flights, I actually had time to get some reading done. I finished Ariel a few weeks ago and needed something new, so I went on my Kindle and downloaded a bunch of samples. I ended up buying The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks.
Nicholas Sparks is well-outside my normal genre. However, some writers and publishers advise reading outside your genre to learn new voice techniques, writing styles, character development, and world building techniques. Since I've been reading science fiction and fantasy almost exclusively for the last ten years or so, I decided to branch out on this trip and try something new, hopefully learning a thing or two in the process.
Since my novel is told in multiple first person, I wanted to learn how to avoid confusing the reader in regards to which character is speaking. The Last Song is written in multiple third person, so I thought it might be a good choice. Granted, being told in third person instead of first makes it easier for the reader to remember who's speaking, but Mr. Sparks does a wonderful job of changing the tone of voice depending on the character that is being followed. Each character is distinct. You can tell from the language used that the father is older, while the daughter is in the midst of teenage angst. However, as she grows and matures through the course of the novel, so does her voice. Word choice is critical, helping to develop the character while also engaging the reader.
As is typical of a novel by Nicholas Sparks, the ending was a tear-jerker. I even cried a little. I'm going to re-read some of the novel to try to understand how and when I became so emotionally involved with the characters. I want to learn how to create that same emotional tie between my characters and the readers. I'm sure there's an element of innate ability, but I hope I can learn more from a master by reading his books.