This is a word that is often bandied about by critics and writing tutors alike. But what does it actually mean?
It’s a hard thing to define. For me, it means the way that a novel is written: style comes close, but it’s a little bit more than style, it has to do with the author and how they come across. Although, these days, not many novelists, directly address the reader, ‘and that, dear reader, is how the story begins,’ the author is of course there. No matter how hidden they are, their presence shines through between the lines, and this is how it should be. Otherwise all novels would feel the same -they would have a text book style.
How do you develop voice?
I think this comes with practice. When we begin to write we often model ourselves on our favourite authors. We unconsciously (or not) emulate their style. This rarely works. It’s better to develop your own style. And as writers grow more confident, that is generally what happens.
The more you write, the more your own individual voice will emerge. We all write in a way that instinctively feels comfortable to us and I think that this is what becomes our voice.
It’s difficult to decide if your own writing has a voice, but anyone who regularly reads your work will be able to tell you. In my writing classes we have regular writing competitions. To make it fair, students enter these anonymously by putting their stories in a folder on my desk, but after being with a class for a while and listening to their work read out, I find I can identify certain entries, because the authors have a very strong voice.
Three words that sum up Voice
If I had to pick three words that sum up voice, I would say: passion; honesty; and language. When you write your first draft let it all hang out. Don’t edit yourself, be passionate, be messy. But also be truthful. Our writing, our creativity, comes from deep within us. Get in touch with your inner truth. Be aware of the language you use. Be aware of how you actually say things. What words are really you? In this way, I think you will find your own voice.
Voice is what makes readers care about your work (or not). Voice is what makes them want to read on.
Below is an extract from my new novel, Ice and a Slice – well you didn’t think you were going to get away with me not mentioning it, did you? One of the things that helped when I was writing it was finding the character’s voice early on. And her voice became the novel’s voice.
Ice and a Slice
The terrifying part was pressing the button on the intercom system beside the grimy frosted-glass door. Before that she could have been any other office worker on the busy Soho street with nothing more important on her mind than where to go for lunch: Daddy Donkey for a burrito or Malletti for a slice of pizza? Oh, what she would have given to have been making a choice like that.
She could still run away. Phone up later and say she’d been ill or had to work. She probably needn’t even phone. These kinds of places must get loads of people who made appointments and didn’t turn up. No doubt they were used to it.
Her legs were too rubbery to run anywhere. She glanced over her shoulder. No one was paying her the slightest attention. Thank God. Her outfit, overloud floral leggings and her hideously expensive Monsoon jacket, red for confidence, had been a mistake. She should have worn a wig and dark glasses and one of those great big overcoats so no one knew whether she was male or female. On second thoughts, that would have attracted a fair bit of attention in the June heat – everyone else was in summer suits or mini dresses. A few hundred yards away two bare-chested council workers had coned off a section of kerb and were digging up the road. The faint smell of tar mingled with traffic fumes on the summer air.
Taking a deep breath, she stabbed at the intercom button, which she missed first time because her fingers were shaking. Now she was committed – please let them open the door quickly before someone she knew strolled by and spotted her.
If you did happen to want to buy the book – a mere £1.94 for Kindle, you could always click here 🙂