Forum / Finding One's Voice

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    H-M Brown
    Dec 11, 06:25pm

    This seems a little insane for me to ask, but it has been something that tends to leave me thinking about a lot. What exactly does a writer's voice look like? Does it have a visual look like grammar, spelling and storytelling? I know it sounds ametuer to ask, but it has been something very nagging. I guess it's because I feel like I don't have a voice. Am I worrying too much about it?

    Thanks for your time and help.

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    Susan Tepper
    Dec 11, 07:06pm

    A writer's voice "on the page" is a kind of imprint of that particular writer's soul. When you are writing from your deepest instincts, without censoring what is coming onto the page, your "writer's voice" will take over and flow naturally out of you. As a writing teacher, I find that some beginner fiction writers are able to access their writer's voice very quickly, whereas others find it in the act of doing-- that is by writing story after story after story. You probably have your writer's voice, and just don't trust in it yet. The fact that you are worrying about it, leads me to that conclusion.

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    H-M Brown
    Dec 11, 08:57pm

    Well it's kind of like this, I have been told once that I have no voice and it kind of confused me.

    When I speak aloud I don't have a unique voice, my voice sounds weird. Though I know I must be missing the point if not missing something, and I don't know if I am right in the assessment of my writer's voice being the same as my actual voice.

    Perhaps you are right and that I don't have trust in my voice. I never hold back my punches when writing, oh boy do I not hold back with my storytelling.

    Is it possible for me to write without a voice?

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    Susan Tepper
    Dec 12, 03:22pm

    How you sound when speaking aloud has nothing to do with your writer voice. Writer voice is what comes off to the reader. There is writing that comes off "generic" like it could be written by a computer. In those instances, I would say the story has no voice. There is nothing interesting or compelling or distinctive about the way the story is being told. I would love to give you a few specific examples, but wouldn't dare for fear of being sued! But if you browse through some "formula fiction", you'll get an idea of what no voice means pretty fast.

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    Susan Gibb
    Dec 12, 05:14pm

    H.M., "voice" is one of the hardest things for a lot of writers to understand, yet most readers without knowing that it's voice, would be able to tell you exactly what it is without being able to explain it. Susan's explanations here are excellent as to exactly what a reader is picking up on in a story, tho the reader doesn't know it.

    In your story, The First Run, I made the comment, "You know, I was going to say the voice sounded like H.G. Wells; then I looked at your profile and see that he's a favorite of yours. May I say that you've caught the voice beautifully in this story." What I was referring to is the narrator having planned, detailed sentence structure, a bit formal, and very inviting to the reader to walk along within the story with him. That's what I see as "voice." And while voice may refer to the writer, it's really the narrator voice that's being discussed (which of course, comes from the writer).

    Hope this doesn't confuse you.

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    H-M Brown
    Dec 12, 10:30pm

    So the voice could be subjective to the reader based on how each individual assumes or presumes the voice would sound. Like for instance when I read the comic book Watchmen, I assumed that one of the heroes voices would sound like Christian Bale's scratchy voice from the Batman movies. Would this analysis be correct. If so, then does this mean that I shouldn't put too much emphasis on voice?

    Or maybe the better question would be; is my narration in my story, whether first person or third person, be a reflection or extension of my own persona and emotions?

    Did I just stumble into philosophy now?

  • S._tepper--nov--lighter.thumb
    Susan Tepper
    Dec 13, 08:46am

    H-M, I think you just understood it better from what you wrote in your second paragraph. If you want to really get your writer voice going, try this exercise: Write your life story as simply and honestly as you can. Take your time doing it. And don't worry about how it comes out.

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    H-M Brown
    Dec 13, 11:03am

    I'll try that. Thank you for your help Ms. Tepper and Ms. Gibbs. You both were very helpful.

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    Susan Tepper
    Dec 13, 11:26am


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    Kevin Myrick
    Jan 16, 07:35pm

    Here's another angle on something that both Susan Tepper and Susan Gibb didn't mention but I have learned some through trial and error. You touched on some when you said "is my narration in my story, whether first person or third person, be a reflection or extension of my own persona and emotions?"

    It is true that voice comes from your own persona and emotions, in that certain turn of phrase or captured moment on the page that stands out truly as your own. But another thing you have to consider when writing is how your characters feel, what they would say and do in the course of a story.

    Also, I feel that each story and novel has it's own voice. Otherwise, why would you associate the scratchy voice of Christian Bale be in your mind when reading a comic book?

    Just something to mull over, H-M.

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    H-M Brown
    Jan 16, 11:24pm

    'Also, I feel that each story and novel has it's own voice. Otherwise, why would you associate the scratchy voice of Christian Bale be in your mind when reading a comic book?'

    See the movie Watchmen and listen to Rorsach's voice, then watch The Dark Knight and listen to Christian Bale's voice when he's Batman and you'll understand why I thought their voices are the same.

    I am, of course, aware of characters requiring different voices for different personalities, that for me, was common sense and logical. What my concern was, and my fear that I am weak at, was my own personal narrative voice, especially for third person writing.

    It's easy for me to develop a state of being an actor in TV, Movies, or on stage, when writing dialogue for characters and having their personalities come to life. It's borderline method acting. It takes a lot to expose my own psychological and emotional feelings to pour into the characters I write to make them believable and natural.

    But when it comes to writing the narrative, telling the story, showing the scenes, explaining the feelings of characters outside of dialogue, and most importantly displaying good grammar; I have to have a voice not so much distinct, but one that can draw the reader into the story, without making them hit a brick wall and cry "What in the heck am I reading?" and have no clue to what I am talking about.

    That is not easy to do, which comes with the territory, and the best way I can write my stories is to write to my strengths and not expose my weaknesses.

    Yet all of it would mean nothing if I have no voice in the narrative to begin with. That's why I have been seeking to try and understand how the voice works so that I can be a better writer. So when my readers and fans invest their own time to read my story, it was worth it and not felt wasted.

    There's no feeling of the art in writing, if you have no voice to convey it.

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