A to Z: Voice

Voice is one of those things that's hard to pin down.  It's rather like obscenity, I suppose: we know it when we see it.  Good voice can carry a story, situate us in time and place and feeling so solidly that we are utterly transported.

Finding your own voice as a writer is hard; I know I certainly haven't mastered it.  It's so easy to read something brilliant or moving or quirky and think, "Yes.  That voice is perfect.  That's what I want to do.  That's how I want to write!"

And then I spend a few days trying to write like... whoever... before reverting back to the voice that just comes out naturally when I write.  It changes, sure, from story to story and as I grow as a writer.  But it's always the one that comes out in the end.

Okay, so I may not have a Margaret Atwood in me.  I may not have a Neil Gaiman, or a Sarah Waters, or a Franny Billingsley (all writers who have, I think, distinct and interesting voices).  I have me, when it comes down to it: just me.

I could spend years trying to hone my writing style so that I sound like Margaret Atwood, and you know what I would sound like?  An imitation of Margaret Atwood.  But I'm pretty sure she's got that covered.  The Voice of Margaret Atwood is a void that was filled by... the voice of Margaret Atwood.

I have my own voice.  That's the one the world has room for.  That's the one I want to spend my time on.

Do you ever find yourself changing your voice to sound like someone else?  What has your experience been?

One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)


  1. I started writing on online text-based roleplaying games(Not D&D!). No graphics. Just text.

    Since I only portrayed my character's actions/dialogue, I didn't learn anything about structure, pacing, or displaying character thoughts and hidden emotions in the text.

    But, it's nice to look back on that wasted time as my putting in the gozillions of words folks say are required to develop your voice. I am comfortable with mine. I may not know exactly where it fits into the realm of romantic fiction, or what the actual definition is of Voice, or what the difference is between voice and style... or lots of other things, but I guess it's one less thing I need to try and figure out.

    (BTW, I did read something about this in my inspiration book the other day. Their recommendation: Write something that happened in letter format, address it to someone you speak with regularly and feel comfortable being yourself with. Then after it's done, scrap the salutations and farewells. What you have left is a story in your own voice. Haven't tried it, but that's what the bookieman say!)

  2. Trying to change the voice of your writing is a bit like trying to change your image in real life. It's a kind of persona presented to the world, isn't it. interesting....

  3. The times I've tried to sound someone else were mostly when writing notes to the school about why I should be excused early.

    And what Amalie said about writing a letter really does help one get away from "writing" and into just telling a story to a friend.

  4. Great topic, Jes!

    I wish I had thought to write about Voice today...

    Oh, wait -- I did! ;^)

    In my early attempts at writing, I spent a lot of time trying to write "like" someone else -- Tolkien, Heinlein, S. King for horror, and others. The pieces I wrote were all dismal flops, but I do think they helped me towards developing my own still-evolving voice.

    Just like when I was a kid first learning to play guitar, I spent a lot of time trying to copy Hendrix, Clapton, Jerry Garcia, David Gilmour, and Duane Allman note-for-note. I failed miserably, but all that work put in trying to copy others did help me develop my own chops.

  5. Voice alone cannot sustain a limping plot. This, I have learned.