Voice in Writing

Photo credit: mrehan
Voice is something that I rarely think about when writing. And, to some extent, I think that is okay. For voice is not something that can be forced, but is something that is naturally developed over time. Of course, I speak of writing fiction, where a voice can be anything you want it to be.

When I say "voice", I mean the myriad of personality, tone and story which is conveyed through your writing. If non-fiction, you'd probably want something matter-of-fact, informational. Fiction, however, is full of opportunity to develop voice to its fullest extent. Voice is what makes a reader come back to the same author over and over again. Voice draws the reader in and helps make a connection between character, reader and author.

So how do you find your voice?

Voice can vary from one piece to the next. The voice of a character may overshadow the voice of the author in fiction. In some cases, it should (think of close first person narrative, Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games). In others, it may not (think third person omniscient, Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities). However, there is always a voice in piece of writing. If The Hunger Games were written in third person omniscient, it would have an entirely different voice, even if still written by Suzanne Collins. If A Tale of Two Cities were written in first person narrative from one (or many) of the character's perspectives, the novel would read quite differently. Not necessarily worse, not necessarily better. Just different. Point of view shifts can affect voice, and that's something to keep in mind for your novel.

To find my voice for a novel, I like to take the main character I'm working with and freewrite from that character's perspective. Ask the character a question and have them start to talk. Don't interrupt them, just write what they tell you. It sounds crazy, but you'll discover a lot of useful things about them and the direction your story can go. Their voice will bleed through, mingle with yours and you will discover a possible voice for that novel. This voice is at once yours and the character's.

And that's what you want--a voice that is specific to both you as an author, and the character you've created.