A writer’s voice is his or her trademark or brand. People recognize a writer by their voice. There is a lot to know about writing voice, and it includes assigning unique voices to characters to add depth and breadth to your stories.
This article touches upon a number of important aspects of writing to give a quick, high-level perspective of developing voices in your books, your own writer’s voice and other invaluable aspects of writing great stories.
When narrating a story the first-person point of view is most commonly used. The author is trying to convey the story, and how it is narrated, sets the tone mood and presentation.
The voice of the narrator can be quite descriptive, for example, Ernest Hemingway wrote, very simply describing “Hills like White Elephants”, giving the reader a vivid description of the white bare hills, and at the same time making the reader feel included.
Sentence structure is also important, and Hemingway used very simple structures, often communicating in short sentences at the level of a 12-year-old child. This made his stories very accessible to all readers.
The Authors Voice
The voice of the author includes the author’s style; showing the author’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes…. And while telling the story, the author reveals and develops the character, and will usually have multiple character voices weaved within the story.
Writing is actually a complex skill. It can be likened to playing the piano. It takes years of practice to master the skill. Although some do possess natural talent, it still requires years and years of dedication and practice to perfect.
Our favorite fictional characters also have to develop a voice, and that doesn’t just happen. The author works hard to consciously develop each character’s personality.
Sometimes the author will model themselves on their favorite author, and practice hard to be like their role model. Various skills are practiced, and then, they are put together as a whole skill set.
In developing a character, consistency is required, or the reader will notice whether the character changes or acts out of character, and they will see it as flawed, amateur-level writing.
One of the best skills an author can have in their arsenal is a good vocabulary. Sometimes this is learned early on in life at home and school. But no matter where one is with their vocabulary, you can increase it in a never-ending quest to increase the “color palette” for using the perfect words to describe something.
The Characters Voice
How we deliver our message is important when writing a novel. There are many ways that this can be done, and most people need to practice their skills to perfect the craft.
Deliberate practice is a bit like active listening (where we reflect back on to what is being said to prove that we are listening). Deliberate practice entails working at what you can’t do all that well, to achieve the level of quality and efficiency that you hope to attain.
Of course, this takes a big investment of time and effort, but the best writing coaches will help you improve your writing skills enormously.
Writing a Novel
When we progress to writing a full-fledged novel, a writer’s voice will continue to evolve, and it will become more natural and less technical. Also, it’s important to realize the importance of grabbing the attention of the reader within the first few pages. If you don’t, the reality is that they won’t read any further.
The narrative style of the novel determines the voice and how the story unfolds for the reader. The third-person perspective is useful. If the author knows all about their character in the story, it allows the author the creative ability to step outside the usual style and create some unique characters and events.
Defining a Writer’s Voice
A writer’s voice should be somewhat unique, and practicing your own style will ultimately reap big benefits because, for one thing, it helps you create a brand of sorts. In other words, people will recognize your writing style as your own. This is huge, as familiarity of an author develops a loyal readership.
You don’t need to use lots of long or complex words. A few well-placed adjectives will usually suffice to convey descriptive images and set the scene. Very importantly, you won’t lose some of your audience due to “difficult reading” because of little-known words. In some cases, the perfect word needs to be used, and by all means use it. But try to stay away from impressing people with a vast v vocabulary when it’s not necessary.
This brings up a great point: an author should not seek to be interesting to their readers. If you write with interest in your audience, you will impress them automatically with a great reading experience. And then, automatically, they will think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. But if you try it the other way, you will be writing for the wrong reasons, and it will show in your work.
If you use the perspective of the narrator, the narrator is everywhere and doesn’t really need to have a name to convey the thoughts and voices of multiple characters. This approach allows the writer to escape from themselves and become someone new, often using several unique characters through different selections of voice. Using narration can give a powerful feeling because s/he knows all and can be everywhere, at any time, throughout the story.
When just starting out, it is usually best to write short stories with just a couple of characters—nothing too long or complex. This is a great entry point for writing stories.
The Developing Plot in a Writer’s Voice
Beyond the characters, it’s important to develop the plot. It would be great to write like Bill Bryson with his light, humorous and entertaining style, and plenty of description involved. But you have limitless possibilities.
When you become fond of an author, look back to their first novel. Often, years after it was written, it can give insight into how the writer has developed over time, and how much better they are now.
Developing the plot is an important skill to learn, and you will need to study effective plot development examples. Here’s what to take notice of:
- Use a plot process to shape the story
- Develop a timeline
- Develop interesting characters in different ways.
- Outline some scenes before you flesh them out
- Support the story with subplots
- Ask yourself questions about the development of the story
- Show it to a valued friend, and get feedback
The plot development is critical. Be sure to leave room for the novel to change and grow over time as you work on it.
The late John Le Carre was noted for his brilliant plot development in spy novels. Once you start reading his books, it becomes impossible to put them down. Read some of his novels to get an idea of a well-structured plot that keeps people turning pages.
Shape the Story
If you have an idea for a great story, begin with an intriguing storyline to start with to get the reader hooked early.
There are various online tools that you can use to get the process underway and to grow the idea. Soon, your story will develop and grow.
Often, it will be best to write about something you know. If you do a lot of traveling, include it in your stories. Not only can you write faster, you don’t need to to much, if any, research, and your descriptions are vivid and spot on.
You may decide to use some of the travel experiences that you’ve had as a basis for your plot, and build on them. The local knowledge is a good basis for a storyline.
As an example, when the plot involves murder, Jane Harper does this well in The Survivor, where the murderer traveled to a small holiday destination as a child.
A writer’s voice can be broken into elements and include:
- Word-Choice—the chosen words by a writer denote style and voice
- Syntax—or how the sentences and phrases are put together
- Punctuation—makes a sentence readable, without punctuation the words all run together
- Tone— this is how the writer feels about stories and events. the tone is important as it brings the authors into the story. This matters as without emotional involvement the reader will lack involvement in the story
- Perspective—this has to do with the events from the point of view of the author. Different people see events in a different way, and it is how you view them for the storyline that makes your story unique, whether based on truth or not.
- Subject Matter—this is the content being written about. Most writers will stay with a definitive genre and it will, if they are successful, ultimately define them. Their Writers Voice versus the Active or Passive Voice.
Colleen McCullough developed her storytelling techniques over many years, including writing The Thorn Birds, probably her best-known novel
When writing in isolation, there is a danger that many authors face while developing their voice. They become introverted and live in isolation. Being withdrawn for too long can make one ignorant to what is happening around them and becoming disconnected. It takes such a long time to fully develop the skill that it can be years before being published. It’s important to stay connected with life in general.
Using Active or Passive voice can also make a difference in emphasizing the storyline, making the delivery sound more or less exciting to the reader.
If you are going to be a children’s book author, the sentences should be short, descriptive, highly imaginative, and no big words whatsoever. To be successful with children takes a wicked imagination.
Roald Dahl was one of the best, with a dozen children’s books all ranking highly, and having that amazing ability to get the child off of their electronic devices and reading. This is not easy, and good children’s writers are not common. However, with an exaggerated and often gruesome plot, they can be a huge success.
The writer’s voice is so very important, and it takes a long time to develop. So, have patience, stay with it, and know that you will get better and better at developing voices.
A writer’s voice not only takes time to develop, but working on your voice often changes, and it can grow into becoming a master storyteller. However, lots of practice is required, especially in the early days—the time we become comfortable with our own choice and our unique way of expressing ourselves.
After a while, even the characters seem to take on their own persona, and if you let them, they may take over your keyboard. It doesn’t matter what you write about, just keep writing.