How important is your voice?

What is the voice?

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into planning my book over the past few weeks, mainly around the plot, the setting, the characters and the structure of the finished article. I’ve been brainstorming, making notes, jotting down ideas and descriptions of places and people. I’ve even been doing some short sections of exploratory writing to see how the characters can interact in certain situations.

This has all been productive and incredibly useful, but there’s a bit of the puzzle missing. The voice. What is it? Is it worth considering before I start productive writing? Do I even have a choice what my voice is in my writing? Time for a bit of research.

I’ve been reading some posts about effectively using your voice in writing, in particular this one:

Les Edgerton discusses how to use your voice in order be a unique you, to speak to the reader and capture them with your words. I like the way he talks about using the editing process to make sure that the things you write sound like you – the words aren’t words you wouldn’t normally use; the sentences are constructed in the way you speak them yourself. It’s writing that is honest to yourself and who you are.

Interestingly, there is a section on getting feedback from your peers to make sure your writing sounds like you – no one knows your voice better than your close friends and family. This is exactly what I was discussing in my last post!

No, really, what is the voice?

Everything said by Edgerton was really useful and thought provoking, however, I have a nagging issue around this.

All that’s being described is writing in a voice that is you. If that’s the case, then I already have my voice – surely it’s how I write already. I just need to pick out any oddities in my writing in the edit. Easy! Or is it?

What about the writing style? Does this count as voice? Who is the narrator – is it written in the first, second, third person? Should regional accents be written out phonetically? Are the characters’ thoughts explained or left to be worked out by the reader piecing together bits of dialogue? Isn’t this all part of the voice?

My book is set on a island somewhere off the coast of Britain. The people there are isolated and will most likely think, speak and behave differently to me. They will have habits and styles that have developed over their years of isolation. Should I try to reflect this in the words I use in my writing?

Should I be developing my writing, purposely creating a new unique voice that may not fit my natural style? The risk is that my voice will wobble halfway through the book and revert to type, resulting in a horrendous offering, neither one thing or the other.

Is this the most important thing to consider when starting writing a book? Am I overanalysing, or has anyone else put time in developing their voice for a particular project, genre or setting? My immediate thought on this is that in order to keep the momentum in my writing, I need to promote my natural style as much as possible. But in a book with such a particular setting as mine, am I doing the reader a disservice?

Leave me a comment below – I’d love to hear if you have any experience or opinion on any of this.


5 thoughts on “How important is your voice?

  1. I write my narration in a way that comes naturally to me, but I try to write my characters’ dialogue and thoughts in ways that are unique to them. You want the bulk of the text to sound like you so that it’s not strained, but you don’t want all the characters to sound like you — you want them to be at least somewhat individual.

    How individual you make them is up to you, though. Normally I’d advise that with an isolated culture, you prepare a bit of jargon for them that other characters can wonder at, or that can be used to differentiate them from other societies. However, since I think all your characters are islanders, they should all automatically understand the jargon, so there’s no real textual reason to start laying on the accents, weird speech patterns, etc. I’d advise looking at that stuff as flavoring rather than substance; maybe sprinkle a little bit in initially, then you can go back afterward and add some more ‘to taste’ if you feel you need it.

    • This sounds good. I haven’t given that much thought specifically. The characters are images in my head with a personality and “type” already established. The rest of the writing is my natural way as well.

      • Thanks for your comment A.D. – I agree with your approach completely, but it looks like it might have got me in trouble! If you don’t constantly refer to your characters traits (even if they are logged in your head) do you slip back into your own voice at all? I have done and am now unpicking where it doesn’t sound right.

    • Thanks for this – I’ve been busy with my head down writing this week so haven’t been updating the blog much. Going back to your point, it’s all beginning to make sense!!! I’ve written everything in a similar style – the characters all talk the same and behave the same. They all have the same voice. This must be a criminal activity for a writer, but something that we all do (if left unchecked). I find dialog the most liberating part of writing – it all happens so quickly and you can write freely, moving the plot along dramatically in a single writing session. It’s probably also the reason why it needs the most careful scrutiny in the edit as well. Narration in my voice, characters in their own voices – that seems obvious now, thanks!

  2. Pingback: Writing Tips | Writing Wings

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