Finding Your Voice

What’s your voice? And is it the same voice that reminds you to pick up a gallon of milk at the store or the other one that insists wearing white after Labor Day will have Stacy London beating down your front door?

From the very beginning all new writers are experimenting with style. And usually the style you like to read is the style you will probably end up writing. But will you recognize which one best fits your voice or will you tromp around in the puddle of indecision for longer than you should?

When I first tried to pen a novel in the late 90’s, I was convinced it would be a Desire. And in my quest to formulate a story I tried to keep myself within those boundaries. I wrote how I thought it should be, creating stories with little or no conflict because I wasn’t being true to my voice.

Now, we all know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But what will separate your story from a similar theme in the slush pile or as a contest entry is capturing the reader’s attention. It’s confusing to draw a line between what everybody else is doing and how you will take that same idea and capture it in a fresh way. Your voice will make that happen.

Think of your favorite author. The one who pushes all your buttons and sends you to ebay in search of those hard-to-find early releases. Can you identify the main reason this author’s voice resonates with you? Is every story brimming with mystery or is the characterization so spot-on that you’d like to be related to the hero and heroine? Have you been to a conference or book signing with this author and found a personality trait that stood out in your mind? Something you can relate to in real life or a connection that makes you feel as though that author has written the story with you in mind?

That’s their voice speaking to you. They’ve found the style of writing that plays to their strengths and they are headed to the end zone with the ball. And as much as we hear that there is no set formula for a saleable story, you can’t argue with what works. That voice has captured you and (hopefully) thousands of other readers and if you see that author’s name it’s like hearing from an old friend.

So, have you figured out what your voice is saying yet? Can you name one element of your writing that is present in everything you’ve enjoyed creating? Do you have a knack for description or witty dialogue? Do you enjoy weaving clues into the fabric of your story or can you effortlessly shift scenes and point-of-view? Try focusing on what you do well and the rest will take care of itself.


Reese Mobley said...

Great post, Jan. It took me several completed manuscripts to develope my voice. In fact, my crit partners recognized it sooner than I did. Since they say "write what you know" I write quirky characters in outlandish situations. Fits me to a T! XOXO

Pat Davids said...

When I started writing I didn't even know what voice was. My friend, Mary P, who read those first attempts, said I had a clear and unique voice. Mary had an English minor, so I knew she knew what she was talking about, but I didn't. She also asked, very gently, if I had ever diagramed a sentence. Much work has been done on my grammar but I’ve always had the same voice.

To this day I'm not exactly sure what that voice is but others have recognize it. I think, as Jan said, that it's writing without trying to imitate other writers. I'd love, love, love to write like Reese, but I fall flat when I try. I usually have characters dealing with emotionally intense issue, alcoholism, homelessness, illiteracy or unplanned pregnancies. I make readers laugh and cry in my stories. I did one humorous book, A Military Match, but it didn’t go over as well as my others. Readers did not expect it from me and didn’t respond to it. Live and learn.


Joan Vincent said...

I started writing in a vacuum. That is to say the only thing I knew about writing fiction was garnered from books I read. I had no idea there was such a thing as "voice." I just wrote and a lot of the time the characters dictated or so it seemed at times. My brother-in-law once told me he was surprised, not at the humor I employ as my husband was, but by my expression of the darker side of life. My Voice? I still just write. At moments like this I'm embarrassed by my inabliity to realize or articulate "writing" knowledge.

Rox Delaney said...

Like most everyone, I wasn't aware of voice when I started writing. I just wrote, and that's what I still do. If asked what type of voice I have, I'd answer that it's boring. To be honest, I think we're all too close to our creations to see them well.

My best writing friends both have very unique voices. Kathie's writing is laced with country and humor, with lots of emotion. Kristi's writing is emotional, but she has a knack for writing some of the funniest lines I've read.

Write what feels right. If the words are flowing, you're writing the way you should. :)

Starla Kaye said...

Understanding a writer's voice and style takes a lot of analyzation. I'm really more into "Do I like the book?" or "Would I buy the author's next (or previous) books?"

I do feel that over time I've developed my own voice and style. But I think when a writer first starts writing, they tend to try and follow their favorite author's style and voice. That's okay for practice, but you haven't really become a writer until you've developed your own style and voice.

Becky A said...

I've never quite figured out what a writer's "voice" is either. A very nice lady once told me that I have a strong voice but I assumed she meant a big mouth! Perhaps sticking to ones convictions of how the characters would speak and act, what feels right in your gut, determines your voice???

snwriter52 said...

Narratives, well developed descriptions, dialogue, etc., are just some of the elements to making a believealbe story. Your tone of voice will shine. I'm not sure I've found my voice yet. But if my story is flowing and my characters are keeping me on the edge of my seat, I smile knowing I'm doing something right.
Jan, great blog, thanks for sharing.

Nina Sipes said...

A writer's voice is so important that it is worth protecting. The one thing I'd like to mention is that there are a few things that will kill it. Overworking a piece. The other is listening too much to critique. If Sir Arthur Connan Doyle wrote murder mysteries like Agatha Christie,the world would be less. But imagine the conversation between them as they spoke sharply to each other about what a murder mystery should contain and when the clues should be scattered! They'd kill each other as critique partners.