Monday, May 16, 2011

What is Writer Voice?



How do we recognise our Writer Voice?

It’s our fingerprint, it’s who we are and how we slip inside our character’s heads, how we reveal their inner thoughts and convey their emotions, their hopes and fears. We cannot escape our upbringing: things and people who’ve influenced us over the years, nor things we’ve seen and experienced whether in real life, through movies or that of reading books.



Eyes, too, are the widows to our souls and they also give soul to our writing. Hence, we are what we are, a complex mishmash of information. Whatever genre, whatever sub-genre, and whomever the characters, we as authors surrender to sense of time, sense of place and our voice/style unique to each and every one of us. People say, but I become a different person when I’m writing a novel, email, letter etc.. To some degree, that’s true, but getting to the psychology of it all, that’s why as writers we have to be careful our writer voice/style does not become author intrusion within a novel! By author intrusion I mean slipping out of character mode and our selves suddenly the narrator! In email/letter correspondence we may change tone and its content will reflect such, but our signature/writer voice is there as sure as the fingerprints on our keyboards.  

Take for instance, transition from a contemporary setting to historical backdrop. A leap through time is required, and although writer voice is our unique fingerprint, it should become slightly smudged by unfamiliar dialogue, social etiquette and customs of chosen period. Why? Because, 21st century author has now relocated to the past, and has to adapt to chosen period or, the story may well sound and read as though 21st century characters are cavorting in mere fancy dress. With a contemporary YA story, youthful character thought is required, but no matter how you put across your characters your writer voice/style will exist as was in another genre. That's why, if you've read thrillers written by a novelist you've read on a regular basis, then, that writer pens say a romance under different pseudonym, I bet you'll end up saying to yourself, "Well, If I didn't know better, I'd say this was writtin by So-and-So, it sounds like her." :)

So “Voice” is “Style”, but how do you know if you have it, and how can you see it?
Answer: You have it, and it’s unique to you unless tampered with by others. It’s how you paint pictures with words. Some writers abandon own voice and choose to try and mimic an author they admire, which usually ends in tears! Why? Because it’s a bit like trying to fit into a dress that neither fits nor suits the mind behind the pen!  ;)            

Forgive the ramble and any typos, please, it's off-the-cuff no edit, other than quick read through.

15 comments:

  1. The voice to me, is paramount. I need to find it compelling enough for me to read on, I need to relate to it. It's interesting finding different voices in my own writing, I've used my blog to develop my writers voice thus far.

    Thanks for such an interesting topic to discuss! Have a lovely week.

    Tx

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  2. Hi Talei,

    Yep, interesting topic. It's strange how writers think that "how they speak" is their writer voice, when it's much more complex than that. It's how they lay the ground in sentence structure, paragraphs, repeat phrases/words etc., - the fingerprint unfolding. ;)


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  3. Voice seems to come after stripping away all evidence of the struggle to learn the craft of writing the genre.

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  4. I like the comparison you make between and author's voice and a fingerprint. I wish uniqueness was stressed more in all those listservs for writers, rather than following all the "rules" and emulating writers you admire. Sigh. Good job!

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  5. Francine,

    I love your posts. They are always so in depth and really get into the heart of the matter we're discussing. You also always come up with the perfect visuals to illustrate your point.

    To Ana and Jennifer's points, voice is the time to be able to break some of those rules we've all had drilled into our heads! Let the fun begin...

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  6. Hi Jennifer,

    It's a bit like a graphologist analyzing handwriting, a psychologist sees the person behind the keyboard!

    Hi Debra,

    I do try to come up with something to make us think rather than just skim the topic and end up saying "yes that's like me" or "I do it so-and-so". It's great to stand back and look at topics from a subjective (professional)POV rather than personal slant.


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  7. Excellent advice and so true. I am currently critiquing a friends ms. Once mistake she makes is that she has the same modern voice for all her characters including those in another world.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

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  8. I struggled a lot with voice in the beginning , but after a while I started realizing that.. I have a particular way of putting things..that though it looks similar to 1000's of other books, I haven't really read it "verbatim" with another author...

    Great job in explaining that Francine.. ! And I hope I don't copy another writer's voice - even by chance :)

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  9. Hi Nancy,

    Good to see you here. It happens - shame when it does!

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    Hi Ju,

    That's the thing, writers worry too much about voice when it's there screaming to be heard! ;)

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  10. Great post, Francine, I like how you compare our writer voice to our fingerprint. Continuing the analogy, we have 10 different finger and thumb prints, therefore when our writing voice changes in different types of writing, or genres, or eras, it's not that the fingerprint becomes smudged, it's just that we're using a different finger! But it's still uniquely our own and trying to stick someone else's finger on our hand doesn't work!

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  11. I know I have a "voice" but I am also a chameleon when writing in other genres, but that's a good thing. I think being able to slip into different characters' mind set is a benefit.

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  12. I got waylaid on my way to your blog yesterday Francine. I like this. Very writerly. It's great when the voice comes through in our writing - the voice we want...

    Denise<3

    Romantic Friday Writers Second Challenge - LOST - Friday 20.

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  13. Hi Wendy,

    Chameleon: good word for it!

    Denise: true, and if only all writers' voices could thrill the way some voices do by way of phone. My hubby's been said to have a chocolate voice, and not all writing has a chocolate feel about it. ;)

    Sylvia: I try. :o

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