I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My A-Z of Writing Tips: Voice

In the writing community, “voice” is a word used to describe two things:
  • Your writing voice (how you—your attitude, your personality, and your character—come across in your writing)
Holly Lisle describes voice in the following way: [When you write,] you have to put yourself on your page. This is what is known in the writing business as developing your voice. Voice isn't merely style. Style would be easy by comparison. Style is watching your use of adjectives and doing a few flashy things with alliteration. Style without voice is hollow. Voice is style, plus theme, plus personal observations, plus passion, plus belief, plus desire. Voice is bleeding onto the page, and it can be a powerful, frightening, naked experience.
  • Your characters’ voice (what makes your characters unique and interesting)
In other words, what is it about your character and the way he/she views the world that makes the reader want to keep reading?
Anyone can write a book, but not everyone is able to create a character the reader is invested in, one they want to follow all the way to the last page. And not everyone has a style of writing that readers connect with.

All is not lost though – we writers can work on improving our voice (the subject of another post perhaps). That’s a step we should leave for revisions though, not something to worry about while we’re writing our first draft.

How about you: Which do you think is more important when you read/write a manuscript, writing voice or the character’s voice? Do you have any tips for strengthening voice in a manuscript?


Grandpa said...

Wow! There're so many things about voice there - good to know them Rach.

I certainly have the passion, and may be a little voice which I hope will bleed one day. Thanks Rach.


Life on The Farm

Laura Josephsen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura Josephsen said...

*Have more to add:

I think both types of voice are important. If the author voice falls flat, then trying to read the characters' voices is going to be really hard. Same the other way around--if the author has an amazing voice, it will definitely catch my attention, but if I can't connect with the characters, then the book doesn't work for me.

That quote is excellent--a story without personality isn't a story at all. It can be frightening to put so much of yourself into a story, but what's in us that gives and shapes a story and characters. And sometimes the story and characters help shape us--we learn and grow from our experiences in writing, and use those experiences in our next project.

Voice is something that I've always found so hard to define. You brought up some great points. Thanks!

Kay L. Davies said...

I'm so glad I seldom work with characters any more. Too much to learn at my time of life, you know.
Sure do enjoy reading your blog, though, Rach.
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

L'Aussie said...

A great post on voice Rach. I've been away for Easter with not very good internet access, so have only done what I can. I checked out the challenge but couldn't see a due date so I guess it's closed, doh! Sorry I didn't get to it. I'll read some entries when I catch up. As you can imagine I've got quite a backlog.


Ryan Sullivan said...

Up until recently I've more or less limited myself to my character's voice, not wanting to let my author voice "intrude". But recently I've been using more of my "author voice", and I'm really enjoying the freedom of more interesting word-usage and descriptions.
So now I'd like to build a balance between character voice (which I will use when building tension) and author voice (which will hopefully be a little more interesting to read when the tension isn't so high).

Madeleine said...

Great post. I chose voice too, though concentrated on how it affects styles of writing. Definitely if a man writes a woman and still sounds like a man that can be unsettling and vice versa. :O)

Paula Martin said...

Usually I can hear my characters inside my head. Sometimes I may imagine a specific actor playing my hero and hear his voice.

Tenshi said...

cool post. You are totally right. I think both voices are very important^^

Cally Jackson said...

Very interesting post, Rach. While the author's voice is important, I believe that the character's voice is critical. I get irritated when I read a book that is supposedly from multiple perspectives but all you can hear is the authors' voice, no matter whose head you're in.

One of the major elements I focused on during my rewrite of Tangled was ensuring my two MCs each had their own unique voice. Hopefully that comes through in the writing! :)

Zan Marie said...

The longer we write, the more we practice, our voice develops recognizable differences from all other writers. That's important for our success. Great post!

Deana said...

I am finding that on my first draft, when I'm not so concerned with editing, my voice comes out more. When I work on my second draft I think my characters voice begins to strengthen.

For me both are equally important because the characters voice will keep the reader reading until the end while the authors voice will keep the reader wanting more of the authors books.

Anonymous said...

It't tough to say which is more important, writer's voice or character's voice. Perhaps it depends on the genre. If I'm reading a classic, for example, I find the writer's voice more compelling. If I'm reading a fun read, the character's voice means more to me.

Suze said...

Character. When the author's voice starts to bleed through then it becomes something else. The voice of the narrator needs to invite the reader in to sit for a while.

Two cents.

Liz Fichera said...

A key word in your post is "passion." The reader has got to feel something in your writing, something deep inside.

Great "V" post!

Ann said...

I usually hear my characters voice. Getting it on the page so others read it the way I hear it...now there is the challenge.

Shallee said...

I absolutely love that quote about authorial voice-- it says it exactly right. For me, a character's voice is much the same. It's not just about what they say and how they say it. For me, it's about how they see the world, their unique perspective on things. It's hard to get right, but I love it when I see it!

Anonymous said...

Personally, I like writer's voice in stories. I love the way certain writers string together words.

That said, I've never heard a writer buddy complain about a rejection where the author/editor loved the characters, but didn't like the voice of the manuscript.

Tough call.

Wub2Write said...

Awesome post! And I agree with Liz...passion struck a chord with me, too! Just shared this post with both my critique groups. Thanks! :-)

Jeanne said...

Voice is so important. When I think of voice I often think about certain TV shows where we get to know characters week after week. If we were to read the script without the names, we could tell you which character said them. For example the Seinfeld show did a great job distinguising its characters. They were predictable and true to themselves. You might not like the way the character acted but you grew comfortable with the character. That is how I want to distinguish my characters.

Rachel Morgan said...

Surely both types of voice are equally important? I don't know... I find this voice concept quite challenging. Not because I CAN'T do it, but because I just don't KNOW if I can do it! I just sit down and put myself and the character together and write! Are my writing voice and my character's voice coming through? I don't know!

Adina West said...

I don't consciously *try* and create either authorial/narrator voice or character voice, they just happen somehow, probably because both have lots of 'me' buried in them, or bits borrowed from people I know, so hopefully they resonate as 'real' with the reader.

In creating an identifiable 'voice' for your character though, I think use of close POV is essential, as it lets the reader inside the character's head and (hopefully) brings them right into the character's journey as it's undertaken.

Forged documents said...

I enjoyed reading it. I'm supposed to be somewhere else in a minute but I stuck to reading the story. I like the quality of your blog :D

Adeeva Afsheen said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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