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Finding Vour Writers Voice

July 15, 2009

Every writer, at some point, struggles to find a consistent voice within their text. Without this strong voice resonating with your readers, your stories can appear listless, flabby and uninteresting, even if it is structurally and grammatically sound. A writers voice is the quality of the prose you present to your readers giving them the feeling that you are comfortable expressing with yourself on either the page or screen. A writer can employ a number of writing voiced depending on the style or genre they are writing in, but consistency and familiarity of that voice is integral to the success of the story’s acceptance. As such is an important tool to familiarize and experiment with as part of your basic writing toolbox.

Why is it important?
Your writers voice is the distinctive blend of insights, description, character portrayal and style you employ in order to speak with your audience. A consistent writers voice is critical to good writing. If your voice is erratic, hesitant, confused, embarrassed or unsure, your audience will not continue to read your work. Without a strong writing voice, your work runs the risk of coming across as robotic, stilted, academic or dry. Publishers and editors are searching for new voices and they way you present the essence of your story needs to speak to them on a unique level above all other texts that come across their desks.

Dog Looking at and Listening to a Phonograph, ...
Voices?  Do you hear Voices? Image by BL1961 via Flickr

Voices? What voices?
Sometimes your writing voice is the one you hear when you think. For other writers it’s how they speak in normal conversation. Writers often claim that they hear a character telling them a story – or ‘their part’ of the plot and many either dream or vision their storylines. Regardless of how you source your storyline, the way in which you then present the text becomes your writers voice and the one that your readers will hear.

How do you find your natural writers voice?
In many instances the writers voice is very different to who or what the writer is socially or personally. Its entirely possible for a shy person to write stories full of passion and lust, action and heroic deeds; just in the same manner that a gregarious, outgoing person can employ a gentle and introspective writing way.

Begin to discover your own writing voice by writing – at least half a page – either long hand or typing -every day. Start with a random topic every day – or simply discuss your everyday life in a stream of consciousness. Start to ‘chat’ on the page – as if you were telling a good friend about that topic. Those funny asides and colourful descriptions are exactly he sorts of things to include and will develop into your natural style. Don’t edit or sit in front of the page for ages trying to fine the ‘right’ word to being. Just write. Don’t hesitate. Be honest. Every writers voice is unique in its style and its essential that you write everyday – even a few lines, in order for you to find the natural voice with all its rhythms and idiosyncrasies.

Dare to get it wrong
Your writers voice is a reflection of how your characters experience the settings and world you create around them. Dare to explore your characters and invest time in getting to know them. Dare to tell the story in their words. As you allow them to do so, listen to how they do it and then being writing. If you can hear them – its likely that you will get the voice of the story right as well. The words and way this story is written may not be the way you normally write – so dare to get it wrong and be pleasantly surprised when it becomes one of your readers favoured or most acclaimed to date.

Dare to be passionate
Self editing and perceiving every moment how your audience wants to hear your stories will end you in misery and writers paralysis. Dare to be passionate with your writing and use a variety of everyday and high-brow language, mixing the pattern of your sentences, and the way these things fit in with the personality of the character whose point of view you are narrating. Through experimenting with these styles, you may find the writers voice which best suits the way you want to convey your message.

The bare bones of a story is made up from the plot, characters and its setting and certainly without strong representation from each, you would be left with a poor structure. Its only through the writer’s voice that a story begins to take on a life of its own and have a soul.

Image by BL1961 via Flickr

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Annie Evett was disturbed when she first heard her characters demanding for her to tell their story first. Now she just yells at them to get in line. Catch her growing amount of websites and blogs here
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  1. anandserpi permalink
    July 15, 2009 1:53 am

    Thanks, Annie. It’s really helpful and inspiring. Looking forward to apply this method in the next fiction friday. Cheers!

  2. July 15, 2009 6:15 am

    Excellent article!

    Question: I have a distinct writing voice. I also mostly write in first person at the moment. How do you have a unique voice, common to all your stories whilst avoiding all your characters sounding the same?

  3. July 15, 2009 8:12 am

    This was a nice article! When I read this, I understood it to mean that a writer should have a distinct voice within any given story, not necessarily common to all stories. Is that accurate?

    I ask this because I am trying to think about my own writing to see if I can find my voice.

    I’ve noticed certain tendencies in my writing that seem to occur across many of my stories, regardless of the genre or if it’s first or third person. I’m not sure if this is just a tendency, a bad habit or actually my writer’s voice. It’s kind of chatty and wordy with a kind of dry, ironic sense of humor (much like I talk in the real world).

    I’ve noticed that the pieces from my writing which I like the best usually have these elements to a very large degree. I have also noticed that I will sometimes write something that is completely devoid of these elements, completely different and these are often what I consider to be my best works. It is when I have stories that are only sort-of chatty or a little funny or kind-of-but-not-quite-wordy-enough that I feel my writing is awkward and, well, bad.

    Since I am not certain if these elements define my writer’s voice, I think I will try the technique described in this article and see what comes of it. Thanks!

  4. July 16, 2009 2:29 am

    Good article. I think writers forget that the voice is a vital element in any piece of writing whether it is story telling or a factual piece. The voice is what connects with a reader and can be the decider to whether people carry on reading or put down and move on to something else.

  5. July 17, 2009 11:44 am

    I, too, found this post extremely interesting. But I was also a little confused as to whether talk of ‘a voice, your voice’ meant that a writer was supposed to have one voice for the whole, or at least a large part of his work. Looking back over my writing I can discern a particular voice coming through. But I sometimes think I want to deliberately try something different. It may not always work but when it does, it gives me satisfaction because I’ve succeeded with something that’s not necessarily natural for me. I’d be interested to see a few more articles/experiences with this.

  6. July 19, 2009 3:41 am

    I’m wondering if voice and style are one and the same thing? Or are they different?

    Like you Rob – I can identify a couple of elements which are common to most of my writing … but I’m not comfortable in saying they are my voice?

  7. July 20, 2009 3:01 am

    Extremely interesting post. I particularly identify with the points focusing on finding a voice that doesn’t alienate your audience in any way as, being an article writer, I find there is a fine line between being informative and descending into writing something more tedious.

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