What on earth do we mean by a writer’s voice?
When you hear the phrase, ‘your voice’ this usually means the style you write in. Whether you are writing fact or fiction, it’s the style that more comfortably flows from your mind through your fingers onto the page.
There are several ways to get into your personalised way of writing, read on to get an idea of them.
The voice of your story is the perspective you choose to write from. It is nearly always told from the perspective of the implied author. The implied author is the character that tells the tale to the reader about the characters they are reading about.
It’s the hidden, yet prominent, character.
Just as Kaye Bewley, is the author of this text you are reading, if you are writing a fiction book, the implied author is the character that tells the story to the reader about the characters on the page, but they never get ‘seen’ or ‘heard’ directly.
This implied author has a set of traits that moves the story forward – commonly called the ‘author-narrator’. This is where you can blend third- and first-person points of view.
Remember though, if you do choose to write from this perspective, it needs to be set-up – i.e. the reader needs to be aware of it from the get-go – in the introductory pages. If you don’t, the reader may get a little confused.
To find out what type of style or voice you want to write you should really consider the type of work you are putting together. A good way to figure this out is to take two contrasting books by different authors – say a thriller and a romance novel. For instance:
- a novel by Virginia Woolf and
- a dramatically paced tale by Dan Brown
Both these styles of writing are visibly different. Though they are both fiction, each has a different voice and a different perspective.
Consciously think of the Virginia Woolf book written in Dan Brown’s style and vice versa. Does it work? This is why you need to decide what type of style, or voice, you want to use in order for that to fit the book you are writing.
It’s all Latin to me!
In my fiction and non-fiction, I tend to prefer a short and punchy style in the guise that most people speak today. I try not to overwhelm the reader with lots of detail. My writing aims to ‘get to the point’ and ‘skip to the end’, while doing so I use common words instead of the Latin equivalent.
You can tell a ‘Latin’ word by seeing if it is ‘longer’ than a shorter modern one
An example would be:
- use v utilise
- learn v ascertain
I’ve deliberately chosen this modern-speak style for my non-fiction work because I didn’t want my psychology books to appear ‘stuffy’ or ‘officious’. Nor did I want to use psychological terms that people who haven’t studied the subject in-depth don’t know or wish to understand. The important thing is the message.
As an avid writer, you’ve probably come across the term ‘Purple Prose’ at some point. If not, don’t worry. It is all about the ‘words’ that are used as opposed to relaying the story itself.
For instance, if used in the text or the main descriptive writing, purple prose can appear quite pompous. Basically, it is an over-described paragraph followed by another over-described paragraph.
Writers who write in this fashion tend to overwrite and overemphasise everything in minute detail. Unfortunately, unless you set your reader up for this, it can bore them.
You don’t have bin purple prose completely as it has been used to good effect, for instance, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen have created some of their most memorable characters with this ‘flaw’.
What’s Your Preference?
To get an idea of the style you would like to write in or, how you would like to write, find the types of stories you like to read and the topics that interest you. Read a couple of works from the authors mentioned above. This way, the types of authors you admire will become plain to see. By understanding this you can begin to write in a similar style.
Underlying the styles you prefer will be the ‘undetected consciousness’ of the story which generally focuses on how you, the author, invites the reader to understand how your specific characters play on the world stage and how they get involved with other characters.
You don’t have to worry about copying a ‘style’, as such, because copying a style is extremely hard work – and can be very time-consuming. So if you start doing it, there’s a big chance you won’t be able to finish it. Don’t lose heart, though, as once you get into the swing of writing, your voice will naturally begin to take form.
- If you like detailed explanations about the place rather than people, that’s what will come out of you.
- If you like to explain what people wear and how those clothes influence your characters’ personalities, that is what you will write.
- If you like to write dialogue a lot more than describing the situation, that is what you will write.
Your voice forms naturally, as you unearth the characters in your book and as your story begins to take shape.