Wednesday on Writing: Voice

Find your own voice. That bit of writing advice is tossed around all the time. It’s a good bit, but it can be a bit vague, especially to new writers. We are told to find our voice, but not what is it and how to go about finding it. Let’s talk a little bit about that this week. In some ways, your writing voice is your style. It’s how you write. Informal, formal, funny, dark. It colors your writing and gives it life. Otherwise, everything you write would be dry and, to be honest, rather boring. Okay, okay, I know there are writers who have a style that is their own, and one or the other of us think it’s still boring. But that’s your taste as a reader, and you may not like someone’s style. That’s okay. As a writer, you have to find the style that suits you and what you are writing. Style often changes, of course. You aren’t going to use the same general style of writing in a cozy mystery set on a tropical island that you would with a gothic ghost story. They need different styles of writing to be effective. Which brings us to the second part of your personal voice. Voice is more than just style. It is the bits and pieces of yourself that you put into the words on the page. What you write should be colored by your own emotions, your feelings about life, and your experiences. Not that you should be writing only about things that have actually happened to you or places you know well, but some part of you should come out in the stories you write. You can’t expect your readers to feel, empathize, and get involved with your world, characters, and plot if you don’t have investment in those pieces. Another part of voice is in the mechanics of how you write. Short sentences versus long sentences. Long paragraphs or short ones. Many quick reading chapters or longer ones that build more slowly. Punctuation and rhythm are part of this, too. These are all the building blocks that make up your voice. How do you find it? I think, to some extent, you have it. When you write, you almost instinctively choose the parts that work for you. Oh, you hone it and improve it with time and practice, but the thing that makes your voice unique to you is there in you from the beginning. It needs nurturing and room  to grow. It’s a tiny, whispering voice at first that becomes stronger and more present as it finds its footing in your writing. You may not even be consciously aware of your writing voice, but your readers see it. Think of some of your favorite authors. Remember the books you’ve read by them. There is something in there, no matter the story they are telling, that tells you this was written by Neil Gaiman, or Stephen King, or J K Rowling. And then think about what those books written by another author would be. Could Stephen King have written Harry Potter? Well, sure, but it would be a completely different book even if the setting, characters, and plot were the same. It wouldn’t just be the added horror elements- they’d be there, yes- but the entire tone, feeling, and structure of the books would reflect King’s unique voice. Something of King himself would peek through the storyline. That’s voice. It’s a combination of many bits and pieces of your way of writing, your way with words, and yourself, all tumbled about with the story you are telling. Let it flow. Let it come through. Be yourself on the page. Your voice will follow. ===============================================================

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