Finding Your Voice

I have read a lot of writing advice that says you should write in your own unique ‘voice’. But, what the heck IS your own voice? How do you find it and how do you recognize it when you see it?

Those are questions I have asked myself many times and, I suspect, some of you have too.

It wasn’t until a few nights ago that I think I finally saw the light. I was mulling over what should be the next scene in one of my books and how I was going to present my characters in it when I realized that I actually know what my voice is.

The revelation actually came when I threw away the whole notion that voice had anything to do with how my writing sounds (pretty corny, I know, but I was hung up on the whole audio component of voice).

So, in an attempt to help you find your own voice, let me talk about what I think my voice is:

  • It’s all about the characters – When I write, character is usually my first consideration. Second at most. Who are my characters going to be and what do they care about? That helps me to drive any story forward because a story is, at its very essence, a series of events driven by how the character reacts and deals with them.
  • There has got to be humour – Even in my darker writing (and yes, I do have some), I will have some humour. I’m not sure my darker stuff is my better stuff either. The writing that has more humour resonates with me (and, I think, others) more strongly.
  • Minimalist approach to setting and description of setting – One of my very favourite writers, Anne McCaffery, always created extremely rich worlds. She did it, not by describing every detail, but by making every word count. She did it in such a way that the reader was able to create their own vision of what that world looked, sounded and smelled like. Phillip Jose Farmer was much the same. Tolkien was not. That would explain why I had such a tough time reading The Lord of the Rings when I was young.
  • Emotion – I use emotion in my writing (at least my better writing) quite a bit. Characters feel and we readers feel through them. It is important to share that emotion so there can be a connection between character and reader.
  • I try not to use cardboard characters – I’m not always successful with this one, but I certainly try. In Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero, the adults are not simply foils for my younger characters. They are living, breathing, feeling people who contribute to the story. There is respect between them and the younger characters. This is not Nickelodeon where the adults are just clowns to be tormented for the amusement of the youth.
  • Logical progression – This might make my stories easy to predict…or not. I don’t know. But, I try to foreshadow my events properly and have things fall into place in a more or less logical way.
  • Dialogue – I try to have my characters do something when they are talking. If you have ever watched people in conversation, they might smile at each other or laugh when something funny is said. They might shift from foot-to-foot when bored or roll their eyes when they think something is stupid. Rarely do they stand looking at each other simply saying things.

Those are the more obvious (to me) characteristics that make up the voice of my writing. No doubt there are several, more subtle qualities that I haven’t mentioned here.

What you should notice right away is, every element I’ve mentioned is a part of story-telling and that is what I really think voice is. How you tell a story.

So, what things do you do in your story-telling that make up your voice. I really would like to hear about it so please comment or send me an email.


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