Drag Your Voice into the Light
Fa-la-la-la! No, not that voice. Do-re-me? Nay-nay. Your writing voice, not your singing voice, and not another author’s voice. This isn’t karaoke. It’s about unearthing a voice unique to you. What is your style and how do you find it to make your story sing? In the words of the song do-re-me – Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start . . .
Voice, in literature, involves word choice and phrases, and arranging them into attractive, well-balanced sentences that jive with the writer’s style. The structure and length of those sentences along with tone, point of view, personal perspective, and experiences of life, help to yank your voice out of the shadows. Hello voice, my new friend, happy to meetcha. For reals.
Varying vocab within a clever mixture of descriptive prose and dialogue is the lifeblood of any worthy story. The fashion by which a writer forms those sentences while sprinkling in their own perceptions and encounters is crucial to unlocking their true voice. Your individual backstory matters and affects your writing style.
Once you have these notes in your heads you can sing a million different tunes by mixing them up . . .
When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything . . . So Do La Fa Mi Do Re
So Do La Ti Do Re Do
Once you have the best words in your head you can write a million different stories by mixing them up . . .
When you know the words to write, you can let your voice take flight . . .
So, don’t just pluck words from the vast dictionary the universe has to offer, use words that coincide with you and your style.
Mull this over for a sec – if a writer was bullied as a child and is composing a middle-grade book on the subject, they can draw from their humiliating, doom-and-gloom childhood memories to dive into the head of their character and write authentically, using real-life jargon. Imagine how genuine and impactful the tone of that story might be, especially from the tormented kid’s point of view. If the bully were drafting the story instead, the words, plot, and tone might be completely different. Choosing to write in first or third person has an impact too. All these factors, the good, the bad, and the ugly shape the power and scope of the writer’s voice.
Tone is fluid and can vary among characters just as the tone of different songs vary. Yet it’s easy to recognize one musical artist from another because their voice and style shine through. It’s the same for writers. Overall style, voice, or signature flair stand out among the written word. Your readers need to feel everything you’re aiming to express. Your tone and words, your voice, influence those feelings.
Determining your why, what, how, and who are crucial parts of the writing puzzle. Understanding your personal answers to the questions below will help guide you on your writing journey. Soon your real voice will appear and stick with you through whatever you’re writing.
To figure out your voice, solve your why. Why are you writing a particular piece, short story, article, or book, whether fiction or non-fiction? Are you writing simply for entertainment, or are you writing something of a serious nature?
Then comes your, what. What message are you trying to get across to the reader? Is it bold and informative, straight out of the gate, or a hidden gem within prose and dialogue?
Next, is your how. How do you choose to tell your story? Will you incorporate humor, use expletives, throw in vocabulary from specific time periods or areas, or luxuriate in a mix of approaches?
Last, is your who. Who is your audience? Were you commissioned to author a textbook? Collaborating with other writers on a movie script? Penning a children’s book or Y.A. fiction novel? Language, tone, POV, and length of sentences differ among genre and audience. So, remember who you’re writing for and bask in the lingo that best fits those readers without losing you voice.
It took me a while to find my writing voice. I had the technique and mechanics down, but I wrote in a serious, restrictive, and long-winded manner, resembling more of a college paper than a novel. Something was missing. My work needed a hella-boost of lexes and moxie, true-to-me snarky sentences, a dash of humor, and a sassy, smartassy tone.
I meditated, unclenched my jaw, relaxed my shoulders, and let go. I figured out my why, what, and how, and narrowed down my who. I started substituting boring words for those with a bit more teeth, and that changed the tone of my writing. I ditched busy and redundant words and slashed paragraphs. Soon, the voice catching dream-sleep inside me sprouted wings and my writing soared. Yours can too.
Quick recap to uncover your voice. Make sure you’re writing is set with the following:
Lit words and spot-on phrases at the ready!
Sentence structure and length are rocking it!
Tone is smooth and crafted!
POV accounted for!
Personal outlook thrown in!
Bona fide life experience weaved in!
Why, what, how, and who locked and loaded!
Congrats, you’re on the way to identifying your voice!
When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything!