Creating Voice in Your Story

Time for another installment of  “What I learned at SCBWI.”  This one is about Voice. You know, the thing agents and editors scream for. The elusive thing that makes our story come to life in a very special way.

I really liked Eve Adler’s definition of voice. She called it that undeniable emotional pull of a story that expresses content, mood, and the personality of your characters and your writing.

Pretty much sums it up in my mind. All of the editors agreed that without voice, the story winds up in the slush pile. Because voice is something they can’t fix. It is unique to the author.

So how do you create voice?

All of the things we mentioned yesterday factor into voice – tight writing, character development, authenticity, structure – all of it can equal voice.

Voice is the way you tell your story – the POV you choose, the way you string words together. It should reflect both the narrator of the story, and the unique style of the author. For example, I write in a staccato manner with many of my stories. But I am cautious to make sure that style does not distract from my narrator’s voice. If he/she is less choppy in their thinking/speaking, then I relax that style of writing to match the voice of the character. In this way, my stories don’t sound like replicas of each other. Each one is unique based on the characters in the story itself. At the same time, they are familiar, comfortable. My structure – that part of the author’s voice that comes through any story – is still there.

Hopefully I didn’t make this even more confusing!

Bottom line –

Write. A Lot. In doing that you will figure out both your unique style of writing as an author (your voice) and the unique tone of your characters (their voice). Put those into your story in an authentic way, and everything else will fall into place.

As Eve said when quoting Maxwell Perkins:

“Just get it down on paper, and then we’ll see what to do with it.”

What do you guys think? Any different definitions of voice out there?

Tomorrow….plot revisited. And later, how to write a very short synopsis.

7 thoughts on “Creating Voice in Your Story

  1. I love that quote! I know I often get blocked because I get ahead of myself instead of just getting the story down and worrying about the rest later🙂 Excellent post!

  2. GREAT TOPIC!!!! I think rigidity was part of my problem. In an effort to be technically correct, I neglected voice.

    Letting go really helped me play. Now I can’t stop the voice! LOL!

    Let’s hope it works.😉

  3. I think sometimes, that my authorly voice can interfere with the voice of my character. I’m terrified that ALL my books will end up sounding the same because I’ll have stamped them with too much of ME. Does that make sense? So I tread carefully over how much of myself to put into them. I have to work really hard to find the character and THEIR voice so that mine isn’t so loud. You know?

  4. I think voice is one of those things that is either super easy or painfully difficult. If you think too hard about it, you psych yourself out. Voice comes out naturally through writing a lot. It’s already in there, we just have to recognize it, then hone it.

    The biggest threat to voice I find is trying to imitate other authors’ voices that you enjoy. I made that mistake in my first book. I tried to write this dark story, but humor kept cropping up–because that was my voice. So now I take that and run with it. 🙂 Great post!

  5. I would agree with this take on voice.

    I also believe it is one of the hardest things to develop. I think good voice development begins with a well-rounded taste in reading material.

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