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?
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.
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.