Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What about Voice?

As writers, one of the most obscure comments (good or bad) can be about voice. “I love your voice” can be just as confusing sometimes as, “I don’t hear your voice”.

So just what is “voice”?

"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Writer's voice is the literary term used to describe the individual writing style of an author. Voice was generally considered to be a combination of a writer's use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works). Voice can be thought of in terms of the uniqueness of a vocal voice machine. As a trumpet has a different voice than a tuba or a violin has a different voice than a cello, so the words of one author have a different sound than the words of another. One author may have a voice that is light and fast paced while another may have a dark voice.

In creative writing, students are often encouraged to experiment with different literary styles and techniques in order to help them better develop their "voice". This aspect varies with the individual author, but, particularly in American culture, having this asset is considered positive and beneficial to both the writer and his or her audience."

This helps a bit; I liked the musical instrument example. Not so sure about the statement about one author having a light voice and one having a dark voice. There maybe some authors for whom all of their books are dark or light, but I think many of us change depending on the story being told.

I like to think of Voice as the combination of my own storytelling style, my personality, and the story itself. I also think skill level and experience play a major part- the more comfortable a writer is playing in their sandbox, the more their natural voice will come through. I currently have four different books/series in the editing- submitting pipeline. Each one is different in style, but from folks who have read more than one, I’ve been told they “sound” like me. Aka, my voice is coming through even though I write differently for my fast paced space opera as opposed to my Victorian SF. So voice is not a single snapshot of an author’s writing. It’s going to flow and change depending on the project and the authors’ experience.

I think there is no absolute- THIS is your voice and how to build it rule (just like there is no rule for how to write ;)). I believe people find their voices from the choices they make and who they are. If a writer relaxes, and listens to their heart while writing- they’ll find their voice. It’s not something to be learned, it’s something to be discovered.


  1. I agree--it's everything combined--word choice, the rhythm of the sentences, theme, all of it rolled together.

    When I want to show someone what voice is, I suggest they read an anthology of short stories called Many Bloody Returns where the authors were each asked to write a story about a vampire having a birthday. Same basic premise but the resulting stories are wildly different in tone, mood, and syntax.

  2. Great blog Marie! You summed it up perfectly in that last line...

    Voice is not something to be learned it's something to be discovered. Perfect!

    I think your voice gets honed the more you write.

    Lisa :)

  3. Voice is elusive and so is trying to describe or explain it. You did a good job!

  4. Thanks for coming by Alexis, Lisa, and Georgie Lee! May your voice be with you! (sorry Yoda ;))