Certain writers have a voice that can’t be duplicated. Bestsellers, like the works of Stephen King, Toni Morrison, and Ernest Hemingway, are often characterized by a unique way of writing—both in terms of narrative and character voice. Part of the appeal of reading great works of literature is experiencing the distinct, inimitable voice of the author.
5 Steps to Find Your Writer’s Voice
In literature, the term “voice” refers to the rhetorical mixture of vocabulary, tone, point of view, and syntax that makes your phrases, sentences, and paragraphs flow in a particular manner. Novels can represent multiple voices: that of the narrator and those of individual characters. Here are some writing tips to help you find your own writing voice:
- Determine your point of view. Before embarking on a new creative writing project, you should ask yourself: Why am I writing fiction (or non-fiction) in the first place? Is there a theme or opinion about the world that you’re aching to express in your own work? Is there something you observed in real life—or an experience you had with a best friend or loved one—that you want to commit to the page? Or are you simply interested in telling a good story while making the reader laugh along the way? People pursue the craft of writing for different reasons, and understanding your own intentions will help you develop a strong voice and your own style.
- Pick a consistent voice for your narrators. Some authors are famous for first-person narration, while others narrate exclusively from the third-person point of view. (Consistent second-person narration is highly difficult to sustain throughout an entire piece of writing and is rarely ever used.) While plenty of famous fiction writers toggle between first-person and third-person narrative voice, you can help establish your own writing voice by picking one style and sticking to it.
- Think about sentence structure and word choice. When narrating a novel, will you use grammatically perfect English? Or will you use regional phrases and colloquialisms? Will you curse? Will you drift in and out of your main character’s voice and inner monologues? Even something as elemental as using short or long sentences can completely change the tone and feel of the author’s voice. Adopting specific policies about word choice and sentence structure will further establish your own voice as an author.
- Find a balance between description and dialogue. Some authors layer their novels with long passages of description—they describe actions and emotional responses through the narrator’s voice and use dialogue to reinforce the narration. By contrast, other authors let dialogue drive their narrative and only interject narration when dialogue simply will not suffice. Picking one of these styles and committing to it is yet another way to establish a specific and unique voice.
- Write all the time. Finding your voice takes time. Experiment with different voices and writing styles. If you’re most comfortable writing romance novels, try your hand at thrillers. If you’re used to writing novels, try a short story. Take a writing course with other aspiring authors in order to hone your writing skills and expose yourself to different styles and examples of voice. If you’re experiencing writer’s block, give blogging or freewriting a try. Sometimes, letting your mind wander and writing for writing’s sake can be a powerful tool, allowing your mind to unearth an almost unconscious writing style. It often takes many years and thousands of pages for a writer’s true voice to emerge, so be patient with yourself. Good writing takes time, and developing a writer’s voice can take even longer.
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