Whose Voice Is It Anyway?

If you’re in the writing world, you’ve probably heard the term “voice.” What the heck is a voice in writing and how do you go about finding it? For a detailed play-by-play, check out this Writer’s Digest piece. For those who prefer to nutshell: The voice in a story is the unique (hopefully) personality that comes through in the way the narrator or a character talks or imparts information. For example, a shy voice may speak little and with difficulty. Perhaps with a stammer and a good amount of throat clearing. An exuberant voice may interrupt others, go off on a tangent, or break out into song. You get the picture.

When little ol’ me starts out writing, I’m so focused on getting the story out, the voices, or characters, in my book all sound the same. Even when I go back and revise, it takes a few revisions (okay maybe a whole lot more than a few) before I can get the personalities down. Followed by more revisions until my fingers are blistered and calloused. When stuck, it helps to ask characters questions. For example:

To main character, Corrie: Why are you doing what you shouldn’t be doing? Her reactions help me to better form her voice.

To Corrie’s best friend and possible love interest, Michael: Why are interrupting Corrie doing what she shouldn’t be doing? His reason for doing so forms his voice.

It also comes down to motivation. Once you understand your characters’ motivations (and history, of course – be sure you’ve got solid bios on all characters who appear on the pages more than once), it’s easier to pin down the particular voice that way. A telltale sign of a weak voice occurs when I start nodding off during my rewrites; I realize it’s because my voices are monotone. Time to insert some action, throw out the scene or give it a rest.

Why do I love the Stephanie Plum series by the wonderful Janet Evanovich? Because of the voices. They are entertaining, unpredictable and sometimes outrageous. Most importantly, they keep me wanting for more. The goal: to create such an amusing voice for each and every character that when the character is off the page, the reader keeps hoping they’ll return. A tall order, but pursuing a passion isn’t always easy. But it’s oh-so-gratifying when the voice is loud and clear.

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7 years ago

This is another reason I like your book so much.

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