Everyone pretends to understand what he means when he mentions voice in writing. I call terradiddle on that. When it comes to prose, I think people have a hard time telling the difference between voice and other elements like style and tone. I do.
For now, let’s see how some writers define voice:
- Larry Brooks in Story Engineering–Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing: “Voice is your particular way of putting words together. It’s your attitude. It’s your personality, turned into words.”
- Ginny Wiehardt in an article about voice on About.com: “Voice is the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character . . . Voice is the characteristic speech and thought patterns of a first-person narrator; a persona. Because voice has so much to do with the reader’s experience of a work of literature, it is one of the most important elements of a piece of writing.” See her complete article here.
The word that keeps popping up is personality. It is also known as a writer’s persona.
How do you find your voice?
One way to find your voice is to ask who you are. Meg Rosoff, in her interesting blog entry on voice, defines it as: “What You Have To Say That’s Different From Anyone Else.” She talks about writers seeking voice as “not what their sentences look like” but who they are.
Another way to develop our voice is to listen, especially to the prose of other writers. TL Costa says in this blog entry that “if we really wish to master the voice of prose, first we may have to open our ears.” But how is this done? Costa says, “Through the manipulation of words, of dialect, and of punctuation used to appropriately reflect your character(s), their thoughts and their emotions . . . The Catcher in the Rye, for instance, has a very distinct voice, and it’s the word order, the rhythm behind the thoughts, that so clearly demonstrates Holden’s state of mind, that grabs the reader and takes them along.”
How do you develop voice?
Once you begin to find your voice–finding your voice is a gradual process–you can incorporate ways to develop it in your writing. Here are some things to keep in mind for this:
- Rob Parnell says in Finding Your Writing Voice: “You should always write in the style that is most natural to you. It may well be different from your speaking voice but should always reflect the way your mind works. Write how you naturally write; if that’s quirky, be quirky; if it doesn’t fit the industry standard, don’t give up, you can find a way. Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are.”
- Write with honest; be yourself (read this blog article about writing with self-honesty.);
- Practice writing often;
- Try stream of consciousness writing;
- Read your writing out loud;
- Read poetry to see how the poets use metaphor and punctuation (read this blog article about using figurative language to develop your voice.).
Voice in writing is not something you can force. Let it happen naturally. Read the articles I’ve linked to in this blog entry and try some of the suggestions given.