I have a question about voice. Every time I hear an agent or editor raving about a 'stand out' voice, the book is written in first person. Can a third person narrative have that elusive unique and compelling voice that we always hear about? Do you have any examples of books written in third person that had a voice that really grabbed you?
Tons! But it's not fair to load the list with Newbery winners.
Every morning, Skippyjon Jones woke up with the birds.
And this did not please his mother at all.
"Get yourself down here right now, Mr. Kitten Britches," ordered Mama Junebug Jones.
"No self-respecting cat ever slept with a flock of birds," she scolded. "Or ate worms, or flew, or did his laundry in Mrs. Doohiggy's birdbath."
Ivy and Bean
It all began because Bean was playing a trick on her older sister.
Bean's older sister was named Nancy. She was eleven. Nancy thought Bean was a pain and a pest. Bean thought Nancy was a booger-head.
The Wee Free Men
She unhooked the largest frying pan, the one that could cook breakfast for half a dozen people all at once, and took some candies from the jar on the dresser and put them in an old paper bag. Then, to Wentworth's sullen bewilderment, she took him by a sticky hand and headed back down toward the stream.
Things still looked very normal down there, but she was not going to let that fool her. All the trout had fled, and the birds weren't singing.
She found a place on the riverbank with the right-sized bush. Then she found a stone and hammered a piece of wood into the ground as hard as she could, close to the edge of the water, and tied the bag of sweets to it. Tiffany was the kind of child who always carried a piece of string.
"Candy, Wentworth," she shouted.
She gripped the frying pan and stepped smartly behind the bush.
Wentworth trotted over to the sweets and tried to pick up the bag. It wouldn't move.
"I wanna go-a toy-lut!" he yelled, because it was a threat that usually worked. His fat fingers scrabbled at the knots.
Tiffany watched the water carefully. Was it getting darker? Was it getting greener? Was that just waterweed down there? Were those bubbles just a trout, laughing?
She ran out of her hiding place with the frying pan swinging like a bat. The screaming monster, leaping out of the water, met the frying pan coming the other way with a clang.
It was a good clang, with the oiyoiyoioioioioioinnnnnggggggg that is the mark of a clang well done.
The creature hung there for a moment, few teeth and bits of green weed splashing into the water, then slid down slowly and sank with some massive bubbles.
The water cleared and was once again the same old river, shallow and icy cold and floored with pebbles.
"Wanna wanna sweeties!" screamed Wentworth, who never noticed anything else in the presence of sweets.
Tiffany undid the string and gave them to him. He ate them far too quickly, as he always did with sweets. She waited until he was sick, then went back home in a thoughtful state of mind.
Voice is certainly most noticeable when it's a unique-sounding 1st-person voice, but good voice is to be had in lots of places. It's about suiting your word choices and pacing to the story you're telling. A perfect match adds depth and texture and nuance to the text; it tells you something about the characters you're reading about and the story being told.