Finding your author’s voice

Hi, Gang, Craig with you again. I need to come up with a post, and this one has been gnawing at me for a while now. Recently, I struggled with a section of a draft I’m working on, and the best solution was to just write it. It came out pretty good, so I’m taking that approach today.

Various experts write about our unique author voice, and how to find it. Is it missing under the couch? Maybe behind the dust bunny? Did the dog swallow it?

“Don’t look at me. The saying is, the cat’s got your tongue.”

There are all kinds of treatises to tell you what author voice is, and it seems none of them agree. Some drift into character voice, and that isn’t the same thing. Therefore, I am going to make up my own concept and share it with you.

Author voice is the portion of you that leaks out into your stories. Think of it this way, if I gave one of my outlines to each of my Story Empire colleagues and asked them to write the book, each of them would deliver a stellar work, and none of them would match. They wouldn’t match mine either.

This is because of that portion of us that comes across in our work. In simpler terms, let’s play a game. Don’t read the next paragraph until you play the game. Close your eyes, and imagine a flower. Determine everything about it. Then read the next paragraph.

No cheating… go back and play the game.

Ready…

My flower is about the size of a nickel. It’s blue, has five perfect petals, and yellow stamen dusted lightly with pollen. It has no discernible smell. I’ll bet your flower was different.

The experts say your voice will show up in time, and not to worry about it. That’s maddening. They tell me I need something, then tell me to find it, but not to worry about it. That kind of advice can cause writer’s block. “I can’t write, I haven’t found my voice yet. Oh no!”

The fact is your voice is already there, because it’s you. You have thoughts on everything. A way of going about your day, what makes for a good breakfast, politics, religion, current events, and everything else.

Voice takes time to show up, because writing takes time. You’ve probably all read that dues-paying advice about the first million words you have to write. Voice tends to come along on this path. Don’t think of it like finding your voice, think of it more like exercising and developing it.

In all honesty, I have (Checking, BRB) fourteen published works, plus I participated in two anthologies. There are two trunk novels that I’ll never share with anyone, and a completed draft I’m holding back for the time being. Oh, plus my WIP. That’s a whole bunch of words.

Don’t confuse writer’s voice with author intrusion. That’s when we move the characters around like game pieces and tell readers what they think and feel. Voice is deeper and should only be seen if the reader searches for it.

As I look back across my works, I can actually see my voice developing. There are stylistic things, like a lot of white space on the page, unique characters, and a bit of humor even in the darkest work. I think it’s been with me all the time, but it’s become more recognizable in the last half dozen tales.

My characters reflect many of my opinions even when I’m trying to write someone who is the complete opposite of me. (I do crazy things like that to test myself.) In those cases, they are likely to learn the error of their ways, and be more like me by the end of the story. This isn’t good or bad, it’s unique, and that’s what voice is all about.

The reality is you don’t have to find your voice, but you have to exercise it, kind of like your imagination.

Since there is so much variation of what “voice” actually is, what do you think? As a bit of free writing, did I offer something for you to consider? I’m open to your input, too. Everyone is entitled to their opinion… Ah! It looks like we’ve come full circle about voice.

54 thoughts on “Finding your author’s voice

  1. Ok, we may have a problem… I imagined a blue flower, with yellow pistils and no smell… No cheating! XD
    Jokes aside, this is a great post with great advice. Voice is something so personal that it’s difficult to give a definition or a recipe to create yours. It’s just a matter of time and exercise.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Craig, I love Mae’s comment on ‘voice prints’. That’s really what it’s all about, letting your voice shine through your work. I find my critique partners don’t always catch, or appreciate, my terminology or humor, but I’ve learned to ignore their recommendations and go with what feels right to me. If I turn my writing into something generic, I’ll never be happy with the outcome- and that’s what counts, because if you’re proud of what you wrote, readers WILL love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really liked the exercise with the flower. You cannot imagine how different our flowers were. That was an excellent way to point out the author’s voice. It is a funny thing that a lot of critics tend to want an author to speak to them in their voice. I also liked how you believe the voice is within each author. I have the same belief. Well done, Craig.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. This is a great post and point made, Craig. Because we all see through different complex lenses, no two stories are the same. My flower was brilliant red with even darker red around the edges of the petals. 🙂 Finding our voice doesn’t come overnight, but it does come with letting go and letting it flow. The hardest job for any editor is not to change the author’s voice. Thanks for the post, Craig!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is the best explanation of voice that I’ve seen because it’s such a nebulous thing. And I agree with you that advisers say to “find” your voice, and that used to frustrate me because I wasn’t sure where it was. When I first started writing, I didn’t have much of a voice because I didn’t think I wanted “me” in my stories. Then I realized that’s what set my work apart from everyone else’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely. My attempt here is to quell some of those issues for our colleagues. Voice is present, and experience will hone it to a fine edge. You don’t have to go on a quest to find it, just position yourself behind the keyboard.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve settled into my voice, but I have noticed a change in it over time. Now I see it immediately in everything I write. I have numerous readers tell me they can recognize my voice too, and would know it was me even in something unaccredited. That makes me feel really good to know my voice is that strong. I think your author voice is very distinctive as well. Your “voice prints” all over your stuff, even your blog posts.

    For the record, my flower was a red rose bud just beginning to open, tipped with beads of morning dew.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I think our author’s voice is always with us. The more we write, the more it will develop. As I write more, I can see “me” coming out in my stories. Subjects and topics I’m passionate about, yet I weave them into fiction. This is a great post!

    And by the way, my flower was a daisy in a field of green grass on a warm spring day.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Think you explained it perfectly. It’s our natural tone and expression, which is unique to each person. I’ve met many who try to copy other voices or force, which typically comes out as hollow in the stories. Just let that part flow because it’s probably the easiest part of writing to access. You don’t need to think much about it to get it moving.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Our author voice is always with us (how could it not be?), but it takes confidence to allow it to come out fully. To give it full expression, we need to write without censorship. For me, there used to always be the worry … what if people don’t like my voice? … Well, I’m sure some will and some won’t. Just so long as I give it a try. Thanks for a thought-provoking post today, Craig.

    Oh, my flower was bright red with poison tips, lol.

    Reblogged this on: https://harmonykent.co.uk/finding-your-authors-voice/

    Liked by 2 people

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