Defining voice is a bit like nailing Jell-O to the wall. The harder you try, the messier things get.
But let’s give it a shot. Voice is a writing style. It is both a particular book and its author’s personality—right there on the page. In acting terms, think stage presence. Voice is not just about word choice, but also sentence and story structure. Voice can be everything. It can overcome a weak plot, unlikable characters, even shaky grammar and sloppy writing. Voice is the proverbial, “I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I see it”.
And whatever it is, it grows in a bed of confidence so as writers we must learn to trust ourselves—and our voices.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. ~ Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs is not an author, but still, there are things to take from this quote. Confidence breeds boldness. Take a few chances. Not everything you write will resonate. But sometimes, just the act of writing and getting your work out there—whether it be in a critique group, a Facebook post, a tweet, or whatever—will give you the confidence to write something else. To take that chance in your other writing.
Voice is one of the most fragile elements and sadly is often edited, or “critiqued out” in the many drafts it takes to create a finished piece. Stand true to the emotion and heart of your words. Say what you want to say and say it loudly. That is not to say we should bristle at any and all criticism, but just a declaration that, as writers, we must trust certain aspects of our style and simply recognize that not everyone will approach the craft and structure in the same way.
It’s all you got.
In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard ~ John Grisham
Ask yourself questions. Why am I writing this story? What drew me to it and its characters? Then think how you would tell the story orally. Would it be serious, funny, or a fast paced thriller? A writer’s voice is a tool used to make a reader feel. It sets the tone, the tempo, and anchors the reader to the point of view. But it is an abstract art prone to subjectivity and translation.
The best writers have a feel for it. They recognize when they have found the voice that is not only natural for them, but for the story they want to tell. And the only way to do that is have confidence in your storytelling talents, in the story, and in the characters you are sharing.
There is no magic formula for finding or developing voice. There is no on or off switch for it. No Fairy Godmuse to wave a wand over your keyboard and bestow you with it. We as writers must work and hone our voices for there are no experts with can’t fail tricks.
And if somebody tells you there is—chances are they are full of something other than it.
- Writing Advice-Voice (whythewritingworks.com)
- How Do Writers Find Their “Voice”? (nfaa.wordpress.com)
- A Word On Voice (laurjeffwrites.com)