This is the Voice!

Since I started pursuing writing, one of the things that has been most confusing to me has been Voice.

Here are some of the notes I took at Backspace that involve voice:

“You have a voice! You have a voice! You have a voice!”

“VOICE! Lalala. VOICE! Lalala.”

Oh! You want more helpful notes? Here:

Voice is what makes your story believable, intriguing. It’s someone you want to live with. You find yourself reading the book in your head in a different voice than your own. It’s what makes your characters come alive on the page.  How do you get voice? Harness your own uniqueness.

But in short, for a long time I was concerned that I didn’t have a voice. My book is not in first person (which is not a necessity for voice, but it gol-durnit helps). It is not flowery or staccato or street punk.

“Do I have a voice?” I quavered to one of my beta-readers.

“Yes,” she said soothingly. “Don’t worry. You have a voice.”

“What is it?” I asked. “What is my voice?”

After a long conversation, we came to the conclusion that my voice is direct, no-nonsense, action-driven, almost sparse. Example? Bleeder  starts in a school hallway. Do I describe it? No. We’ve all been to school. I am perfectly happy with my readers placing Angela in whatever school they went to. So I don’t describe the clang of the lockers or the squeak of sneakers. There is no smell of leftover school lunch food clogging the trash cans. The lockers have no color- they aren’t chipped, faded, or brand-new. Why? Because it doesn’t matter! We are in that school hallway for about 3 pages before we never see it again. I do describe some locations in detail- Angela’s house, the hospital… all are locations that mean something. There is a reason for their shabbiness or their grandeur. And most of the architecture I describe actually figures into the plot in some way.

As a result, I wonder sometimes (after reading something like Jasper Jones, the perfect book for atmosphere) if my book is lacking in atmosphere. Hm…. *thinks about it* I don’t think so. I think that atmosphere simply takes a backseat to the plot. Anyway, the book is out with somebody new now- maybe she can take a look at that for me. *wink wink*

Now, I know that my voice on this blog is way different than my voice in the book. That’s for darn tootin’. For example, I would never say “darn tootin'” in my book. Bleeder is way too cool for that. My blog voice I would describe as cute or quirky. Hopefully it’s approachable and interesting.

So how about you-all out there- What is your voice like? Is it different or the same as your blog voice? Have you ever tried to describe it? Have you ever had someone describe it for you?

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10 thoughts on “This is the Voice!

  1. justinkownacki says:

    I think most people have a POV and a manner of speaking / writing, but to me, “voice” is the style in which you make your point. There’s being glib, and then there’s being Kurt Vonnegut, who is both glib and recognizably himself, as denoted by his writing rhythm, turns of phrase, etc. Mark Twain, Jane Austen, etc. Same thing. If you can tell their work apart from someone else’s without a name at the top of the page, yes, there’s a voice on that page.

    This also comes up in terms of film, plays, etc. Wes Anderson could be said to make the same film, over and over. So could Tim Burton, in a way. So could Stephen Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Sofia Coppola… Not only do we all have recurring themes in our work, but we have recurring habits and preferences of storytelling.

  2. ahamin says:

    Well… that’s a new concept for me. I have never realized it before now, I do imagine in a way that someone is narrating what I read, especially in the first person writings.
    But then again, voice is always there, its the same reason why we say the movie was better than the book… because the reader is the director, and to him/her, their imagination is the dominant. So everyone has a voice of their own, you would waste your time trying to insert one into your work, so I guess you work on your characters and your plot, and letting the rest for the readers to fill in the blanks.
    Good luck with showing your inner voice to all, and I hope it’ll prove compatible to all.

  3. Heidi Kaminski says:

    I’ll be sharing your thoughts about voice with my AP students! The concept of voice often drives them absolutely batty.

  4. Dawn Quiter says:

    I have read pieces of writing with no voice…nothing but white noise. I hope that my book leaves Nicole’s voice echoing in their dreams. We shall see!

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