What Is Writer’s Voice & How Do I Find Mine?
It can be a struggle for a writer to find their voice, regardless of whether they are writing a novel, a short story, flash fiction or memoir. Many even ask what is Writer’s Voice? A writer’s voice is unique to each individual writer much like a voice is unique to singers. It has to do with the way a person writes, and is as natural as is our speaking voice. Readers learn to recognize the author of a book by their writing style or voice. In this workshop writers will discover their raw voice and how to use it to create unique characters.
A writer’s voice is something uniquely their own. It makes their work pop, plus readers recognize the familiarity. You would be able to identify the difference between Tolkien and Hemingway, wouldn’t you? It’s the way they write; their voice, in writing, is as natural as everyone’s speaking voice. Your voice should be authentic, even if you borrow a sense of style from your favorite author. But don’t forget, style and voice are different.
When you find that unique voice, you might not even be able to explain how it came about—let alone describe what it is. That’s the beauty of writing and discovering as you write. Sometimes the best things just happen naturally.
You are the only one who can write your stories. Discover how.
Voice is the style of an author, that element that makes her or his writing unique—different than any other. It communicates the author’s character, their attitude, their personality most powerful tool a writer has. Learn how to hear the voices that are uniquely yours alone. Learn how to discover raw voice, voices from childhood, colloquial voices, personal and private voices. Learn how to use your voice to create characters. .
Voice Definition: Voice has two meanings as it concerns creative writers:
- Voice is the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character; or
- Voice is the characteristic speech and thought patterns of a first-person narrator; a persona. Because voice has so much to do with the reader’s experience of a work of literature, it is one of the most important elements of a piece of writing.
Also Known As: Persona
Voice is something that emerges naturally as a writer develops.
Your audience determines what you write, what examples and details to include, what to emphasize, word choice and tone.
- Your purpose for writing determines what you write, the point of your writing, and how you will make your point.
- Knowing audience and purpose gives your writing focus.
What is Voice?
When I began teaching, I had no idea how to teach voice. I wasn’t even sure what it was. I asked several colleagues “How do you teach voice in writing?” I’ll summarize their answers: “Voice, you either have it or you don’t. You can’t really teach it.” Translation: “I don’t know what it is either.”
Well, here is what I teach about voice now:
- Each writer has a distinct personality.
- Each writer has passions, opinions, prejudices, and information.
- Words should capture the writer’s personality.
- Writers with strong voice capture the reader’s attention with individuality, liveliness, and energy.
- Strong voice makes the writer’s purpose clear.
- Strong voice helps readers experience the emotions of the writer and understand the writer’s ideas.
- Careful word choice, punctuation, paragraphing, and style help strengthen a writer’s voice.
An exercise for finding your voice
Not sure where to start? No problem. Most of us need help understanding our voice. Here’s a short exercise that can help you — just follow these 10 steps:
- Describe yourself in three adjectives. Example: snarky, fun, and flirty.
- Ask (and answer) the question:“Is this how I talk?”
- Imagine your ideal reader. Describe him in detail. Then, write to him, and only him. Example: My ideal reader is smart. He has a sense of humor, a short attention span, and is pretty savvy when it comes to technology and pop culture. He’s sarcastic and fun, but doesn’t like to waste time. And he loves pizza.
- Jot down at least five books, articles, or blogs you like to read. Spend some time examining them. How are they alike? How are they different? What about how they’re written intrigues you? Often what we admire is what we aspire to be. Example: Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Ernest Hemingway, and C.S. Lewis. I like these writers, because their writing is intelligent, pithy, and poignant.
- List your favorite artistic and cultural influences. Are you using these as references in your writing, or avoiding them, because you don’t think people would understand them. Example: I use some of my favorite bands’ music in my writing to teach deeper lessons.
- Ask other people: “What’s my voice? What do I sound like?” Take notes of the answers you get.
- Free-write.Just go nuts. Write in a way that’s most comfortable to you, without editing. Then go back and read it, asking yourself, “Do I publish stuff that sounds like this?”
- Read something you’ve recently written, and honestly ask yourself,“Is this something I would read?” If not, you must change your voice.
- Ask yourself: “Do I enjoy what I’m writingas I’m writing it?” If it feels like work, you may not be writing like yourself. (Caveat: Not every writer loves the act of writing, but it’s at least worth asking.)
- Pay attention to how you’re feeling.How do you feel before publishing? Afraid? Nervous? Worried? You’re on the right track. If you’re completely calm, then you probably aren’t being vulnerable. Try writing something dangerous, something a little more you. Fear can be good. It motivates you to make your writing matter.
Why do you need a writing voice?
Finding your voice is the key to getting dedicated followers and fans and that it’s the only sustainable way to write. If you’re not being yourself, you’ll eventually burn out.
Once you’ve found your voice, make sure you continue to develop it. It’s a discipline, one that can’t be overlooked if you’re going to have the impact you desire and that your words deserve.
The bottom line is that there’s a lot of noise out there in the world. If you’re going to get heard, you can’t just raise your voice. You’ve got to set yourself apart, showing you have something special to say, and that you have a unique way of saying it.
What does your writing voice sound like? Have you found it yet, or are you still searching? If so, keep going. One day you will find it and be surprised that you knew it all along.
**This article is a result of my own experience and of others whose names have been lost over time. For that, I apologize.