Monday, February 27, 2012

Finding Your Voice

Voice is subtle, and yet so essential to a good novel.  It's what makes the reader want to read your next book, and the next.  Lack of a good voice makes the reader want to put the book down and read something else instead.

What exactly does voice mean?  And how do writers develop a great voice?  It's a complex subject, one that beginning writers may not grasp easily at first.

It took me a while to find a good voice for my characters, and even now, I struggle with this point at times.  It's a little like bowling. Sometimes you get the hang of it and get strike after strike, and sometimes - for some reason - you kind of lose the touch and hit the gutter repeatedly.  It's an art that can be learned and mastered, but it takes time.

According to Wikipedia, a writer's voice is "(...) the individual writing style of an author. Voice was generally considered to be a combination of a writer's use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works)."

There's also character's voice, which is the unique voice of each character in the novel, how they speak, their personality showing through.

In my research, I found quite a few useful links about the subject.  I hope they will help you as much as they've helped me.


How to Craft a Great Voice, by Nathan Bransford

Voice - The Song of the Writer, by Christina Farley

Ten Steps to Finding Your Voice, by Holly Lisle

Is Authorial Voice Different From Character Voice? by KM Weiland

Layering Powerful Voice to Create Memorable Characters, by Margot Finke

My notes from WriteOnCon 2010 - Panel about Voice
(Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)


Articles are great tools, but there's nothing like reading a book with a great voice to really grasp what all that means.  One book immediately comes to mind:  SLOB, by Ellen Potter.  It's a middle grade novel I've read and reviewed last year, and it struck me how great the voice was in that novel. I loved it from the very first page.

I have another one in mind, one that gave me an 'a-ha' moment while reading it.  It's a soon-to-be-published (I hope!) novel from one of my critique partners, Ralene Burke.  She wrote her story from several characters' POVs (alternating between chapters or sections) and each had such a distinct voice that transpired not only in the dialogue parts, but in the whole section that was written in their POV.  I was impressed by how well she developed each of their voices.

Do you know any other great articles about voice I could add to this list?


Barbara Watson said...

The MG I'm working on right now took four drafts to establish its voice, and it's not quite there yet. Or sometimes there are places its voice is TOO much. It's such a tricky thing...and it's the thing readers take so much for granted as being simply part of the story. As a writer, it's the thing I struggle with most. I think the struggle comes from balancing my writer's voice with the voice of the character(s).

Super post, Annie, with such great links too!

Annie McMahon said...

Very true, Barbara. We'll get there, with practice. :)

Emailman said...

I love your analogy comparing it to bowling. Very true, Annie :) Voice is definitely one of the important aspects of a great novel.

Annie McMahon said...

Thanks, Kurt! I hope your bowling skills aren't as bad as mine. :D

akoss said...

The linkage is awesome. Will be coming back to refer to it as I work through my revisions.

Anonymous said...

great links! thanks for this post. i've struggled with voice a bit in my current manuscript. it's 3rd person, and the main character is sort of subdued... which makes it hard to leap off the page!!

Annie McMahon said...

Thanks, Akoss! I'm glad you found my post useful.

Gina, you're not the only one who struggles with that. I had the same problem with another novel I was working on. Keep working at it and you'll figure out a way to give your MC a wonderful voice. :)

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

Hi Annie--Just dropping bye to say thanks for a-following. Hope you enjoy my pix of hikes with Molly, Gracie and Lucy, and my occassional rants



Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

...disregard...just trying to figure out why my picture didn't display on previous comment.


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