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Author Topic: Voice  (Read 3393 times)

Offline wakarimasen

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Voice
« on: April 29, 2015, 05:44:01 PM »
It's an elusive, much vaunted and poorly defined thing but everyone seems to agree that you need one in your writing.

It occurred to me this morning that it might be possible to construct a voice, like casting an actor to play your narrator.
I haven't tried this, but I was thinking if I wrote something for 8 year old girls say I might keep Emma Thompson's voice and turn of phrase in my head, lending consistency and clarity to the way the story is written. This stray thought was prompted by listening to a lot of audio books lately.

Does anyone have any thoughts on voice? How to recognise it? How to develop it?

Offline Raptori

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Re: Voice
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2015, 06:19:16 PM »
poorly defined
That's for sure.  ;D

I find it a little odd when people talk about "finding your voice as an author", actually. I always think that the important one is the character's voice, and the author's voice should only really be heard as the narrator in omniscient (and even then, the narrator could be a different voice). Hobb is a great example of that, the Fitz books have the clearest "voice" I can think of, and its source is definitely the character rather than the author.

So yeah, I think you can search for it and develop it, and use different voices for different books. I think it's just a case of immersing yourself in the protagonist so much that their character starts to come through in the writing itself via tone, word choice, turn of phrase, etc. :)
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Offline Francis Knight

Re: Voice
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2015, 08:07:47 PM »
Voice is a tricky one

There authorial voice -- even if it wasn't labelled you know this is a book by Pratchett or King or...It is how you writ e a book, the way things are constructed, how the book is made, how the author is looking at the world (sometomes)

Character voice is different - Consider Pratchett wring Granny v him writing Vimes. The phrases are different, the POV is different, everything is different except who is writing it. They are Vimes filtered through Practhett. You still know Pratchett wrote it, but you can tell by the words and phrases, which character the prose is dealing with. That is character voice

Take these two quotes

“Two types of people laugh at the law: those that break it and those that make it.”

"I can't be having wit this"

Can you tell? That is character voice. But both contribute to author voice
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Offline sennydreadful

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Re: Voice
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2015, 10:34:47 AM »
Voice is a tricky one

There authorial voice -- even if it wasn't labelled you know this is a book by Pratchett or King or...It is how you writ e a book, the way things are constructed, how the book is made, how the author is looking at the world (sometomes)

Character voice is different - Consider Pratchett wring Granny v him writing Vimes. The phrases are different, the POV is different, everything is different except who is writing it. They are Vimes filtered through Practhett. You still know Pratchett wrote it, but you can tell by the words and phrases, which character the prose is dealing with. That is character voice

Take these two quotes

“Two types of people laugh at the law: those that break it and those that make it.”

"I can't be having wit this"

Can you tell? That is character voice. But both contribute to author voice

Yes this :) I think authorial voice is so difficult to pin down because when it's good it's almost like the author's personality/self being expressed through their writing. You can't read Pratchett's books without getting the impression that he was wise, funny, and witheringly sharp.

Character voice is very different. When I'm writing Wydrin's dialogue, I know the sort of phrases and inflections she uses, and I know also that they are very different to Frith's. The tone and the structure and the way all those bits come together though, are me.
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Offline wakarimasen

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Re: Voice
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2015, 10:47:23 AM »
It's the authorial voice I was thinking on. One of my (much treasured) rejection letters told me," the author's voice is not strong enough".
Instinctually I can agree with that, I can tell when what I'm writing is genuine and readable just as I can tell when it feels clunky and false. I would agree, before I had the random point that triggered me to post this, that Voice is the author's character and personality coming through.
However, like lots of people I'm different in different groups. My tenuous theory was that by making a conscious effort to imagine a certain voice and turn of phrase in my head that a clearer aspect of my personality might come out in the writing.

It all sounds like bull now I work through the thought. But let's blunder on anyway in the name of discussion.

Taking Pratchett as an example, I get the feeling he was in some ways a timid man. Certainly a natural introvert, but nothing could be further from his voice. Did he actually imagine his voice as Oliver Reid or the like?

Maybe I'll try it and see if it's just an annoying distraction. I wonder if there are writing exercises to give your Voice clarity - the scribbled example of the me-me-me-meeeees singers might warm up with...

Offline Francis Knight

Re: Voice
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2015, 11:13:17 AM »
There probably are exercises, though I've not a clue what they would be!

But it'll come on its own, in time. One of the most valuable crits I ever got starting out was "This does not sound like you wrote it, it sounds like you pretending to be a writer"

And Overlord, when he read my first book (as Francis), the first thing he said was "I could have told it was you, even if I hadn't known"


When you start out it's common to try to emulate the writers you love -- natural thing to do. As you become more confident, then your "youness" begins to bleed through. Yes, we are different with different groups, but we're talking here more about the core you -- who you are when no one is looking.


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Offline DDRRead

Re: Voice
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2015, 10:43:52 AM »
There probably are exercises, though I've not a clue what they would be!

I think you're spot on with what you said, voice comes, and it's also obvious when you're trying too hard or not being true to yourself. I've heard a lot of complaints that Uni/College MA in Creative writing are churning out a generation of writers with the same bland voice.

There was one  exercise in Renni & King's excellent editing book. I think the jist is print out a variety of your work, then take two different coloured highlighters. Highlight every line, phrase, sentence, word, etc. you don't like in one colour, and everything you do like in another colour. The stuff you like is your voice. There might have been more to it. It's a while since I read that book. I need to reread it.

That though is the only exercise, technique, or guideline I've ever seen on voice. It is a vague, and complex subject, but also kinda straightforward in a weird way.

I had a writing mentor who explained it this way: hat your voice is everything you are, and everything you've experienced. As he explained - If your grew up in Welsh a mining village in the 50's, were white, working class; on the verge of  poverty, and catholic, if your mother left you and your father when you were just a kid, and you joined the RAF instead of going down the pit - all of this is going to show up in your voice and be different to a writer who doesn't have that background, those experiences. Even another writer from a very similar, almost identical background, is going to have a different voice because he won't have the same family sayings, routines, people around him, etc.

It's very obvious when stated like that (he put it a lot better than me), but a writer's voice is just another part our overall uniqueness. Voice is also what we read as writers too, consciously or uncounsciously waht we read influences and informs what we write.

Offline Francis Knight

Re: Voice
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2015, 12:59:20 PM »
I suppose one exercise would be to try to emulate someone else's voice, to see how different it is from yours?

On another board I frequent, they once did a voice experiment -- 2 posts each from 5 anonymous posters. Everyone ha to guess which two went together, and who had written them (I was outted as a poster in about five seconds flat!)

Then we noted why we thought each post was written by the person we'd nominated, and then we tied to write a post in that style

Was very illuminating

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Offline D_Bates

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Re: Voice
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2015, 02:26:49 PM »
As others have said, voice pretty much comes with practice. To define it you just have to define the word: your voice is your voice, you are merely transposing it onto the page. You've found it when your writing starts to replicate your speech so that the story is being told as though you were sitting opposite the reader speaking it to them.

It's pretty hard to find at first because there's so much to learn beyond the actual writing, and it doesn't help that we are rather emulative creatures who like to try and replicate things revered as being good because that's surely the way it's supposed to be done. To this day I get pissed off with myself when I drop in a stupidly elaborate ancient word that I'd never dream of using in my day to day speech but for some reason likes to jump into my vocabulary when I'm writing text.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2015, 09:44:19 AM by D_Bates »
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Offline K.S. Crooks

Re: Voice
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2015, 03:56:46 AM »
Finding a voice for different characters can be made a little easier if one remembers that each of us has more than one voice. We have a different  voice (words used, tone) that we use with co-workers versus friends or family, spouse, your children, other children or strangers. The same event could happen, yet depending on who you are with or speaking to the voice you use will change.
We also had an alternate manner of speaking at different times in our life. As a 3 year old, 6 year old, 10, 16, 19, 25, 40, 65. At the various stages of our life how one speaks become tempered by our knowledge and experiences.
If you can remember these times it can be drawn on for your writing. This same understanding can be used to create a voice for your characters. At times there will be characters and situations you have no context for. This is where you can do so research into the mindset or make it up since it is fiction and your story. Start with what you know and then branch out.
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Offline Roxxsmom

Re: Voice
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2015, 03:20:26 AM »
It's an elusive, much vaunted and poorly defined thing but everyone seems to agree that you need one in your writing.

It occurred to me this morning that it might be possible to construct a voice, like casting an actor to play your narrator.
I haven't tried this, but I was thinking if I wrote something for 8 year old girls say I might keep Emma Thompson's voice and turn of phrase in my head, lending consistency and clarity to the way the story is written. This stray thought was prompted by listening to a lot of audio books lately.

Does anyone have any thoughts on voice? How to recognise it? How to develop it?

I don't know. For me, if I'm writing fiction from a character pov, the voice usually comes to me after a while. I might make some conscious choices about it and do some tweaking for consistency. But generally, as I develop a clear sense of who this character is, their voice comes to me.



Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Voice
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2015, 05:21:09 AM »
Drink heavily.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Not really, although setting aside your inhibitions, as hard as it is, will help imo. I think authorial voice isn't as much finding a style, as it is the confidence to say what you want to say the way you truly want to say it. Some of that comfort comes with experience, part of it is overcoming the stress of writing, especially that fear your work won't be good.