VoiceMay 20, 2009 at 1:09 PM | Posted in Writing Advice | 2 Comments
It’s one of those English lesson words that you can never quite define, and yet you know it’s oh-so-important if you’re trying to write fiction. I’ve studied voice in class, and yet can I define it exactly? No – I’m pretty sure it’s impossible. So, if we can’t define voice, and aren’t lucky enough to have a ‘voice’ already, how the hell do we learn how to have one?
I got an email the other day from someone who had the first couple of chapters of my manuscript, and he said “You have a voice, which is the absolutely essential component of writing talent – the rest can be learned.” Great, I thought – I know what that means, and I’m really happy he thinks it! Then I thought for a moment; it’s the essential component of writing…yet I still can’t define it! It’s something I apparently have, yet I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is. So, I decided to find out, so I can explain to myself – and any other writers out there who have been stuck on this wishy-washy concept of ‘voice’ – exactly what it is.
Despite trying my hardest, I still can’t define voice. But I have come up with some tips on finding, and developing, your voice – which I intend to follow! So, from everything I have read, these are the three golden rules I’ve come up with:
- Don’t think about it. Kinda makes this post a little pointless, right? Well, hopefully it’s not completely redundant; voice is, clearly, important. But if you just keep writing, without agonising over what voice is and how to make yours ‘better’, some sort of style, some sort of voice, will appear. You may not be able to see it, but it’ll be there – after all, all writing has to have some sort of style, right?
- Write anything and everything. Don’t worry if it’s stuff you’re never going to use, if it’s not your usual genre, if you think it’s a load of rubbish – when you have spare time, write! That way, you will have lots of examples of your writing to look over and work out what your voice is.
- Ask a friend/beta reader/someone you trust to read through your work. Think about the sort of things you’d look for if you were analysing the voice of a book, and ask them to do the same to your work. Get them, to write down what genre they feel it is, what sentence structures you commonly use, what words are common features to your writing. Is it funny, sarcastic, sad? Do you use lots of figurative language, or is it all very realistic?
I hope this can help someone, and it’s at least sort of organised my thoughts on voice – and if anyone can come up with a good definition of ‘voice’, please let the rest of us know!