The writer's voice: what is it, and how do you find it?
Updated: May 2
Google writer's voice, and you'll find a plethora of blogs on the subject. There are so many that you could spend days mulling through them – becoming so bogged down that you feel overwhelmed.
Many new writers agonise over finding their voice – but it's quite simply YOU. You are your writing voice.
Let's break this down a little.
What is Voice?
As mentioned above, it's you. But what does that mean? It means your
These are all your voice.
Think about this: when you tell a story to a friend, whose voice do you use? I don't mean literal voice here; I mean, from whose viewpoint would you describe it? Whose experience and passions would influence how the story is told, and where to put the emphasis? It would be yours – this is your voice.
Your voice speaks from inside you.
At this point, you're probably wondering how this translates to the story you are writing, especially if it's not autobiographical. So let's take a step back.
When you recounted the story to your friend, you influenced it. You influenced the interpretation of events, people, setting and sensory surroundings. Everything you are affected how the story was delivered. You used your perspective, your tone, and your own unique style.
When you write a story, you do exactly the same thing, and that is your voice.
So let's bring this back to your writing and how you find your voice within it.
Your perspective in writing
Everyone has a perspective. Don't confuse this with POV or how the story is narrated. Perspective is your interpretation of something. It is unique to you, like how we interpret a piece of art or a poem's meaning. Flick back up to the eight points above, and you'll see that all of them will affect your perspective.
Your entire history follows you into your writing.
Perspective determines how you bring your story forward.
Your style of writing
Are you funny, ironic, conversational, playful, reflective, poetic? What kind of literature are you attracted to? What kind of author and why? Knowing the answers to these questions helps you to think about your style of writing.
Style develops as we learn and practise – a bit like paddle boarding or photography. We have a fundamental style to begin with, things we are drawn to and want to emulate, but we all need to practise and learn. Most of us will be continually developing our styles in everything we do, not just writing.
Think about this in detail. Take some time to notice what you like and don't like, what you are drawn to in other writers' work. Do you write short, curt sentences or poetic descriptive ones?
Your style will become who you are as a writer – it needs your attention.
Your tone in writing
Tone is all about your attitude or your feeling towards the story you are writing. Tone is how you deliver a scene, a paragraph, a sentence or dialogue.
Think of it like this: your nephew is about to dump your mobile phone down the loo, and you need to respond to the situation. There are two ways (for example purposes) that your tone can change without the meaning of your words changing. You can say, 'Phones aren't for flushing, they're for talking to people.' Or you can say, 'Stop right now!'
In the above example, there are two tones – patient or curt.
In writing, you need to deliver how you feel about what's happening. The words you choose and how you feel come together to do this – to create your tone. Thinking about this in detail makes a better experience for your reader.
Your voice is as important as the story itself. It affects how your story is told, how you interpret what is happening within the story and ultimately, a lot of how your reader will feel when reading your words.
To understand more about your voice, take some time to think about yourself, who you are, what you like and don't like, what you notice and why. Start to look inwards and get to know yourself as if you were your best friend.
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Julie Pinborough | Proofreader & Copyeditor