Writing Discussion

Finding Authorial Voice

Time and again, I see agents and editors requesting for stories with ‘distinct voice’.

Everyone has a distinct voice, even you. It’s the way you sound, the way you speak, it’s a reflection of the way you interpret and organize the world, it’s personality. Only you have your voice. I see it in your blogs, in your comments, or in your twitter.

Some people are afraid of voice, of sounding ridiculous or stupid. This fear is not helpful. It’s easy to spot the inauthentic.

When it comes to fiction, my voice usually disappears when I’m trying something new. When I try to force it out, voice abandons me, the gentle, fickle, thing! It’s only when I become comfortable in the subject matter that voice decides to come out and play.

Voice can defy grammar rules. It doesn’t always follow the rules. It likes to hide when I think about grammar, or punctuation. I’m at a loss to find it anywhere when the editing begins.

Take caution. Make sure you never edit out the heart of your tale, of what makes it yours, and yours alone.

Trust in your voice.

I’m still training mine. Maybe if I leave out a plate of cookies it will come out of hiding more often.

Do you ever struggle with voice?

10 Comments

  1. Honestly, I never think about voice. My voice just is. And either you like it or you hate it, but I don’t think of it as something I do much about. Plot, characterization, world building: all that’s something in my control.

    It just so happens that my “voice” likes being grammatically correct 8 times out of 10. I think that helps when editing.

    The only tangent to this, I think, for me is passive voice. My normal writerly voice wallows in passive voice. If I can convince myself, during editing, to be ruthless, I can usually find an overload of passive voice, and I can usually improve what I write if I cut it out. But sometimes I’ll leave the passive voice in, simply because I know it’s naturally a part of my authorial voice. Whether that’s a good practice or not, I don’t know.

    1. I never thought about it much until a friend I’ve been writing with for years read a story of mine and picked out a line and commented “This doesn’t sound like you. I think you’d write it like this…” He was right too. There was something off about the particular sentence. I was trying to force a certain atmosphere that just didn’t work.

      Everyone has a different way of processing information. It’s interesting how your voice insists on grammar, while mine runs and hides from it LOL

      You know, perhaps it’s an artifact of the day job for me – when I turn on the tech writing brain, the fiction brain shuts off.

  2. I have struggled being consistent with my voice. I think I have more than one. Sometimes, I will start a story in one voice, and later, edit, rewrite, or continue writing in another voice. I just have get all my voices to stop invading each other’s territories!

    1. Sounds like you have to teach those voices to play nicely! 😉 I know I have more than one but they’re usually tied to particular types of stories and don’t overlap.

  3. I don’t think about my voice either, but that’s honestly because I think you can’t force voice (as you said) and you’re more likely to lose it if you’re looking for it. Kinda like the whole “watched pot never boils” thing, only minus the time limit. Or something… Anyway, I just try to tell the story as best I can. That’s all we can really do, you know?

  4. I would love to comment here, but it is a post I have planned for my blog. But what I can say is that I struggle with consistency and that has to do with how I see and feel the protagonist. When the idea of the protagonist changes the voice changes with it, but I feel the voice is character specific.

  5. Lua

    “When it comes to fiction, my voice usually disappears when I’m trying something new.”
    This happens to me too, it usually takes a few draft for me to find my voice if I’m trying something new…
    I’m also still training mine and now that I’m done with my first draft of my novel, my biggest fear is to damage my voice in the editing process…

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