Writer’s VOICE: What It Is and Why It Matters

copyright Susan Faye used by permission

So many writers worry over developing a “voice.” This nebulous asset in fiction is as frustrating and elusive as the singing version on TV. I’d like to give you a few hints to dispel the mystery surrounding a writer’s voice.
Writing Tip for Today: What’s a voice and how do I get one?

  • Who Are You? Your writing “voice” is a direct reflection of who you are as a person. Are you sarcastic, witty, dramatic or funny in your “real” life? Those qualities will probably become part of your writing voice. Stephen King says a voice which hooks you from the first line is more important than action or characters. Yet many of us struggle to develop our own unique style. My personal advice is to strive not to strive. That is, try to write naturally, relaxed and true to your core being. Self-conscious writing screams, the writer’s trying too hard! In order to get yourself out of your own way in writing, you’ll probably have to practice–a lot. Write those 10,000 hours and your natural voice is much more likely to emerge.
  • Imitation Is OK. When you’re practicing (and let’s face it, many first novels are practice), I think it’s OK to emulate authors you admire. So what if you go through your Hemingway phase or your Harry Potter imitation? Chances are, you will learn technique by copying a master’s style. Stephen King says as much in his terrific book, On Writing. Recommended reading. Read widely and if you are captivated by an author’s voice, go ahead and experiment–your own voice may just decide to pop out in the process.
  • Leave Your Mark. Just as old oil painting masters started by copying older work, you can copy a style for a time. Your voice is probably going to be a while in developing, but learn the difference between writing characters who all sound like you and a writing voice. You WANT each character to be different to prevent confusion and so the reader is more apt to identify with one character. But your voice is more about how you observe, the emotions you convey and yes, even the way you tend to string words together. The voice is often an elusive quality, but it can be cultivated, mostly through trial and error, sometimes by imitation and almost always by your unique way of looking at the world.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

2 comments on “Writer’s VOICE: What It Is and Why It Matters

  1. Saw your ‘newcomers’ email on the ACFW loop, and followed the link here. I identified with your post on voice and have started following your blog for more good writing advice! I hope to meet you at the ACFW Conference in September, although I know there will be so many people there! If you would like to know more about me, my blog is at angelabrackeen.net.

    • Hi Angela! Welcome and thanks for your comment. I’ll be sure to look for yours among the nametags at ACFW. I’m excited to get to attend and hope to meet as many writers as possible. Write On! ~Linda

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