Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Finding Your Voice

In any form of writing, having an interesting and unique voice is essential. I hear a lot of writers ask, “What is voice, and how do I get one?”

Voice is how your character views the world and how he expresses himself. It’s vocabulary, reactions, perceptions, etc.

Here’s are some example of distinct voices:

“The Deliverator’s car has enough potential energy packed into its batteries to fire a pound of bacon into the Asteroid Belt… When the Deliverator puts the hammer down, shit happens.” (Snow Crash)

“(The story) had a woman, you see, a strong, hard-black woman with skin like cocoa-tea. She two foot-them tough from hiking through the diable bush… when she walk, she foot strik the hard earth bump!” (Midnight Robber)

Okay, so we know what voice is and we know we need one. The next obvious question is, “How do I get one?”

Practice

The first step is to get comfortable with writing. Do you remember reading stories and essays by other students when you were in high school? Most of them had hardly written anything in their lives. They were nervous and uncomfortable. I could tell by the way they wrote; it was contrived and strained.

The only way to fix this is to write until you get comfortable. You can keep a journal, a notebook, or a blog. It doesn’t matter what and how you write; just do it until it feels natural.

Be Yourself

The best way to start is to learn how to write like yourself. You have a voice;  you use it every day. Write the way you talk. For example, I used the word “okay” earlier in this post. I wrote that because if I were talking to you, that’s what I would say.

Trust that your own personality is interesting enough to listen to and let it show.

Get in Touch With Your Characters

It's good to learn how to write like yourself, but your characters aren’t you. They have their own voices, their own lives and perspectives.

I’ve read writers who try to give their characters a unique voice – perhaps a different accent or an unusual attitude – and the first few pages are nice, but they can’t keep it up. I think the key to this problem is that they're trying. In order for a voice to be fluid on the text, it has to sound fluid in your head.

The more you get to know your characters, the clearer their voice will be to you. It will feel natural, and it will sound natural to your readers.

Relax and Let it Happen

Voice happens when you aren’t paying attention. You have to do the prep work – if you’re struggling, ask yourself if you need more practice and if you know your characters – but when you sit down and start typing, a genuine voice just happens.

6 comments:

  1. some great suggestions. Knowing myself was hard for me. I'm still trying to figure it out. =)

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  2. Voice is interesting, isn't it. They say it's the one thing that can't be taught. Although there are ways to develop it.

    I certainly have more than one voice that I use for writing my short stories.

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  3. I do hear this topic about "voice" mentioned a lot. Good tips here as always. Thanks.

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  4. "To have voice" is a great compliment to the writer and the character.

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  5. Voice is such a critical part of a good book for me. What a great post filled with wonderful tips.

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  6. Voice is everything. A strong voice will pull a person in and keep them reading even a trivial story. And writing, writing, writing is the key. I think it is analogous to turning a tap. At first the water may be sluggish or brown and then it runs fast and clear. Sometimes, when I'm 'in the zone' I like to think voices are speaking through me - the subconscious is a powerful force.

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