There is no denying I have been a very neglectful blogger. I hope to redeem myself with these next blogs. I have had the privilege to critique some great writing lately and have been asked some really tricky questions.
PART 1 What is Voice?
Okay, sounds innocent enough but becomes thornier as questions arise.
Q. Is 'voice' my characters voice? Does this mean I am supposed to write in the voice of my character?
A. Character voice and Writers voice are not the same thing. In my opinion which is used depends to some extent on the Narrative Mode; something we will look at in more detail later. For now let's just take a closer look at voice and what it means.
If you have been critiqued and received comments on the voice of your writing it is referring to your voice as a writer, your unique style and use of language that makes your writing yours. It is what distinguishes your writing from that of other writers.
"The writer's voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of idiotypical usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works). Voice can be thought of in terms of the uniqueness of a vocal voice machine. As a trumpet has a different voice than a tuba or a violin has a different voice than a cello, so the words of one author have a different sound than the words of another. One author may have a voice that is light and fast paced while another may have a dark voice."
I have seen a great deal of argument across the web on exactly what constitute writers voice. For me it comes down to several things; the structure of the writing (some writers use short sharp sentences while others use longer), the style of language (flowery/articulate/basic and to the point), descriptiveness, amount of adjectives and more.
Your characters must have their own unique voices of course! This will come though in their internal narrative, dialogue, even in their actions, movements and body language. All will build your characters voice and individual identity. You may have several characters in one novel all with their own voice but yours will remain the same.
Another way to think of it is to go to your bookshelf (I am assuming if you are a writing yours is heavily stacked), find any published book that switches character POV's. Read it from cover to cover. You will find even if moving from character to character, from male to female, old to young, no matter how different the characters, how vastly contrasting their voice, the writer moves seamlessly from one to the other. It still feels like the same book. The writers voice is what ties it all together, what stops it from feeling like you have picked up a new book when the POV character changes.
More Voice Struggles
Q. Now I know the difference between Writers Voice and Character Voice how do I bring it all together?
A. I believe it comes down to properly understanding Narrative mode and Structure
Narrative mode will effect voice. For instance I recently critiqued someone who used snippets of diary extracts throughout their novel but continued in their own voice (in the same format and structure). It didn't work. A diary excerpt is a place where the writers voice would be dropped completely. The characters identity would need to be completely assumed for it to have any authenticity. Understanding the Narrative mode is an important part of understanding not only voice, but the structure of your writing.
Part 2 will focus on Narrative Mode & Part 3 will give an overview of structure.
I hope you found this helpful! As always I would to hear your thoughts, so please comment :)
All my brain juice has been used up so today I am going to steal my funny from Twitter buddy @CassandraPage01!
The past, the present and the future all walked into a bar. It was tense...