We’ve all heard about voice, and it’s often easy to pick out our favorite author’s voice. Each of us has our own unique way of saying things that, when honed, becomes our voice. What we struggle with is how to find our own.
First, let’s get Wikipedia’s definition:
Writer’s voice is the literary term used to describe the individual writing style of an author. Voice was generally considered to be a combination of a writer’s use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works). Voice can be thought of in terms of the uniqueness of a vocal voice machine. As a trumpet has a different voice than a tuba or a violin has a different voice than a cello, so the words of one author have a different sound than the words of another. One author may have a voice that is light and fast paced while another may have a dark voice.
So how can you capture this elusive voice?
1. Write a lot.
Write letters, emails, and journal entries. Write Facebook statuses. Write satire. Write interviews with your characters. Write background notes for your stories. One thing all these have in common? They’re not part of your novel. Loosen up and write some random stuff, just for fun.
2. Read a lot.
Read a wide range of both fiction and nonfiction. Read in genres you’re not familiar with. Read classics and recently published. Ask a friend for recommendations of books she’s liked that you may not have otherwise found.
3. Analyze a lot.
Which books hold your attention? Romantic comedy or thrillers? Historicals or contemporary inner-city? Name five of your favorites, all by different authors. What do they have in common? Is there an underlying tone or subject matter that you can identify? Are they formal or casual? Funny or serious? Languid or super-charged?
4. Practice a lot.
Have a look at your writing. What features do your letters and random bits seem to have? Would someone scan a letter you wrote and know it was from you even before they saw the return address or signature? Why? How could they tell?
5. Get in the zone. A lot.
As a beginning writer, it’s hard to define or discover ‘the zone.’ Once you’ve experienced it a few times, think about how you got there. It’s an elusive state, but there should be some clues. Music. Temperature. Smells. Cafe mocha. Amount of light. View. Solitude. Time of day. Try to replicate these as much as possible another time.
Wait. Did that sound like a description of how to break writer’s block? Ah, yes. They’re related. When you’re ‘in the zone’ you don’t have writer’s block. Words pour out of you freely, and those words are in your voice. The voice that makes you recognized, that’s as distinctive as your handwriting.
- What do writers block and trouble finding voice have in common? click to tweet
- Where does your writing voice hide? How can you coax it out? click to tweet
The beauty is, as you gain experience, you’ll find your voice is less elusive. It will come through more often and more clearly. You’ll be able to recognize when something is off. You’ll find it easier to think and speak like your characters, yet your readers will still recognize YOU behind it all. After all, when you’re truly writing in your voice, no one else can pull it off as well.
My novel voice is casual, with lots of contractions and fragments. There’s a light element of humor behind my words, shown in plenty of sassy thoughts.
In what ways would you define your voice?
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