Friday, 6 April 2012

Finding Your Voice

Having a strong voice that people will enjoy spending time with is a key part of writing a story. Lots of books on writing will encourage you to have a unique and distinct voice. Not many of them will tell you how to go about developing one.

So how do you make sure your voice is strong and consistent and interesting?

Here’s how I would do it.


As a writer starting out, it’s very difficult to be sure of yourself and speak with confidence. Voice comes from that confidence to be yourself and say what you want to say. Some people naturally have their own distinct approach that they bring to their stories. Which is great for them. But most aspiring writers don’t and end up writing in a neutral manner. Nobody wants to read a story that’s constantly second guessing itself or qualifying statements. A balanced viewpoint is not a strong voice.

One way to avoid these pitfalls is to write your story in first person. By taking on the voice of your protagonist, you don’t have to worry about being judged for what you say and how you say it, you can put the onus on the MC. You still have to work out who the MC is, but you’d have to do that anyway.

I want to point out that the voice your character speaks in and the voice you write your books in are not the same thing. A writer can write several books about different characters, and those books will all have his voice. It’s confusing because the word voice means the sound of speech and also your unique style and attitude. It’s the latter that is important here.

You’re not trying to capture how they sound when they talk, you’re trying to capture how they sound when they think.

Using first person can free up that part of your mind that is fixated on not embarrassing yourself by revealing things you feel insecure about. By shifting the opinions and ideas onto another person you can basically shift the blame. Then, when you write more freely, your natural inclinations will come through.

Now, I’m not saying you have to write the whole story in first person (unless you want to). You can write just one chapter, or you can write a short story featuring the character. The point is, once you get into the flow of how you see your world through this character’s eyes,  you will have a much clearer idea of what voice can do for a story. Then, when you go back to whatever POV you wish to use, you will find it a lot easier to judge how effective your voice is.

If you already write in first person and still don’t feel confident you sound distinct enough, chances are your MC is being shy and reserved. A person reluctant to say things out loud isn’t that way in their own head, so you have to let them have their say. Even if it’s only internally. 
 If you found this post of use, please give it a tweet. Cheers.


30 comments:

Randy said...

Excellent suggestion.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I didn't find my voice until my second book.

Ryan Sullivan said...

This is why I love writing in close third person. It's like first person in that you write from the character's POV and get right down into their thoughts, but it still keeps that third person tone, which is good for me because I haven't read many first person books.

mooderino said...

@Randy-thanks.

@Alex-writing a whole book is a slightly linger way of finding your voice, but still effective.

@Ryan-first person is just an easier way to be sure you're in pov, since it's obvious what the limits are. But the deep pov of close 3rd also works.

Jessica L. Foster said...

Great suggestions! I have just started a new novel and need to get the voice down. My last one the character's voice came naturally. This is good advice.

mooderino said...

@jessica-cheers.

Catherine Noble said...

Another insightful post, Mooderino. As a first time writer, I'm more insecure about my writing voice than I'd care to admit! I'm writing in third person, but I think I'll consider switching to 1st for parts that I'm struggling with, then transferring it back to third when editing. Thank you!

jabblog said...

Letting go of the internal voice - or letting it speak - can be difficult. 'What would my grandmother think?' is not a good thought at such times;-)
(Visiting from A-Z blogging challenge)

mooderino said...

@catherine-you're welcome.

@jabblog-Yes, my granny wouldn't have approved at all.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I write in first person a lot - it just feels so much more natural for me.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I fought writing in first person because it felt awkward, but 12,000 words into my first book and I knew it wasn't right. When I shifted to first person, it clicked.

"you’re trying to capture how they sound when they think."

Nice.

Hart Johnson said...

I think books all have two voices. There is narrator voice and author voice. You have an excellent suggestion for narrator voice--really seeing the book through the MCs PoV. I find though, first person loses some of my author voice. Most of what I write, no matter the genre, has a 'me-ness' to it that my regular readers can spot. You know I'm a nut, and it comes through--gives even dark stuff some playful moments. I think that AUTHOR voice is best developed blogging--writing A LOT as YOURSELF. Practice how YOU put things.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

One of these days I should try writing in first person. I've tried before and just found it too limiting. I prefer third person omniscient (which is what I write).

Sarah Pearson said...

This is a difficult thing to get right, but it shows when you do.

Liz said...

Good post, enjoyed it.

mooderino said...

@Annalisa-Of course some people just naturally find the pov that suits them.

@Donna-cheers.

@Hart-separating the narrator voice can be a good way to focus on the author voice. Often you find the narrator just sounding like an excuse for the author to interject.

@Michael-omni is not as popular as it used to be, but all the more reason to use it, I think.

@sarah-I think readers pick up on it very quickly when it's working.

@Liz-thanks.

Laurita said...

Some really great points. The best books and stories are the ones that have a really strong, stand out voice. It takes practice to get it right.

Kirsty said...

HI - visiting from the A-Z linky.

I have to say that the idea of 'voice' is a tricky one for me to understand but I think I'm a bit closer after reading your post.

Thanks and enjoy the challenge.

Tara Tyler said...

voice is personality =)
bringing it out in words is tough!

Adrienne said...

This is great advice! First person has always come more naturally to me. Like you suggest, it's easier to get into the headspace of the character.

November Rain - k~ said...

You provided some really good strategies for writers who are unsure of how to get that "voice" out there. My personal preference is that of third person, because it appeals to me more as a reader. There are a few authors (like most things in my life) that challenge that with their own wonderous ability to express themselves in first person with an added ability to sneak by my radar until I am deeply enveloped by the characters.

Found you by way of the A-Z Challenge List.

A-Z 2012 (#49) - Bloggit Write A-Z 2012 - Poetry
A-Z 2012 (#861) - Bloggit Write A-Z 2012 - Haiku

mooderino said...

@Laurita-usually takes a while to click.

@Kirsty-cheers, you too.

@tara-I think we all have it in us though.

@Adrienne-I think you can do it with close third person too, but it's easier to slip up.

@Novemeber-I think once you've got a handle on it, you can make any pov work.

Krista McLaughlin said...

Great suggestions! I think that having a strong voice in writing is really important and this post was very helpful.

mooderino said...

@Krista-glad you found it useful.

Donna B. McNicol said...

Thanks for visiting my blog...now I'm following yours. Some great posts here...thankful for the A to Z challenge.

mooderino said...

@Donna - cheers, nice to see you here.

Paula Martin said...

I prefer to think of it as freeing your voice, not finding it. Your voice is there inside you, and you just have to relax and let it flow, free from all the restrictions of how you think you should be writing. One piece of advice I heard recently was 'Write from the heart, edit from the the head.'

mooderino said...

@Paula - I think that's probably true, but insecurities can make you doubt yourself. Showing other people and letting them judge you can be very difficult for some people.

E.J. Wesley said...

Hey Moody,

Just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed this post so much I mentioned (and linked) to it on my blog this week. Always enjoy reading your thoughts and wanted to say thanks. You can read my post here:

http://the-open-vein-ejwesley.blogspot.com/2012/04/c-word-can-make-or-break-writer.html

Trisha said...

I definitely feel more confident in my writing voice than I do in my actual voice that i use everyday ;) Though that's something a lot of people don't know about me nowadays, as I'm very good at pretending I'm not very shy! :P

post a comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
 

MOODY WRITING © 2009

PSD to Blogger Templates realized by OOruc.com & PSD Theme designed by PSDThemes.com