Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Happened to Your Voice?

~~A writer's voice is that distinctive vocabulary, cadence, and combination that marks one writer from another. We struggle to find our own personal voice at times and the newer we are to writing the harder it is.

~~I think it might be like the woman I saw on the news this week. For weeks, her voice was a strangled whisper. Doctors tried antibiotics, antihistamines, and steroids to not effect. She couldn't shake what had stolen her distinctive words of love for her husband and children. Her giggle was gone. She learned to wake her children with an inarticulate banging on their bedroom doors. Until a specialist examined her. He began a throat massage. Fifteen minutes of stroking the muscles around her voice box awoke the words, the sounds that were distinctly hers. The treatment was so deceptively simple. A sneaky cold virus had settled in her voice box and her muscles had tightened until her voice was cut off.

~~What about us? What strangles our writer voices. Is it an unconscious mimicking of our favorite author? Or the fear that our words are too simplistic and uneducated? What about the worry that our story is dull or that we can't convey what plays out in our heads?

~~I've been told that the only solution is to write. Write often. Write anything. Just write. What do you think? How do you find your voice?


  1. It took me a long time to realize the difference between author's voice and character voice - but there's a big one. It came to me when someone reading my stuff kept pointing out parts of the narrative that she didn't like (wording, vocabulary, etc.). She didn't think it was "in character". It dawned on me then - that's "my" voice she doesn't like. Can't please everyone, lol.

  2. Tara, lol is right! I think that's one of the hardest things to do. To learn how to shift from narrative voice to character voice is a challenge. Maybe that's why I love first POV so much--it helps me stay true to the character with few breaks in voice. ; )

  3. Wow! I truly do not know. I think I have strove to keep my average, everyday voice, yet, educate it a little. Does that make sense?

  4. Yes, Laura, that makes sense. I think my goal to is trust myself in the initial writing then stop over thinking it as I edit. Does *that* make sense? ; )

  5. Hi ZM, I think all the things you listed contribute to strangling our voices. Being very emotional doesn't help either -- I can't write at all unless I'm in a calm state of mind.

    I've been told to "just write" too. I can tell you there's merit to this, because I didn't 'just write' at all for several years and I'm helplessly rusty! I find myself frustrated sometimes knowing that I used to know how to find 'just the right' word, but now I think "I know what I want to say, but how on earth do I say it?"

    I've been trying to "just write" now too, but the quality of my stuff stinks unless I edit as I go along. [g] It's hard for me to balance that.

    And what about you?

  6. I've heard it said that voice, is the only bit of writing that can't be taught. Just let it flow.

    I'm not sure, I understand exactly what it is. I think I have a British voice, in my writing. I often put in bits of dry humour (well, I think they're funny).

    Voice is important, it stops your work being flat and boring. But what is it exactly?

  7. Jill,
    I think I have to let the words flow freely with all the repetition and awkward phrases to get my voice even close to the page. Then I can pare away the extra and let the voice shine through. But not as I write. As soon as I start editing, I strangle the voice and stop all words from flowing. That's paradoxical, isn't it? ; )

  8. Deborah,
    My voice is decidedly deep South. That's to be expected, I guess. I've lived here all my life.

    Exactly what the voice is is a great mystery, but I think part of it is the way we express what we see, feel, and hear with a healthy dose of our soul as it's foundation.

  9. I have lots of blocks but it all boils down to my own laziness.

  10. Fear that my words are dull or that I'm overwriting (using that Tolkienesque omniscient voice when I'm not writing fantasy). But I don't know... rereading all my old stuff the other day - I think I'm slowly getting better at developing individual character voices.

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  12. S.P.--Laziness is ME! I had a great day on Tuesday and didn't do very much the next two. I'm always an on-and-off writer.

    Deniz--I think you have improved since I'm been on the Forum. Your characters are vivid. And that's our goal, isn't it.

    Manda--You're welcome!


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