Monday, January 11, 2010

Finding Your Fiction Writer's Voice

To some that sounds easy, others wonder what I'm talking about.

Well, for starters, every writer will develop his or her own voice - and it will change, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, over time. 

Finding your voice involves identifying your own natural rhythm and tone.  And that isn't something you can analyze, it just evolves.  In fact, some of the most-educated writers find themselves at a loss as to how to identify that tone and rhythm.  They've spent so much time in academic settings, mastering the 'correct' way to write papers for class, developing a passive construction and detached style that they've created a writing style that is absolutely terrible for fiction. they frequently have a way of reaching for such a perfect level of imagery that their readers are at a loss to tell what they're trying to communicate in their stories.

Interestingly, many of these same writers have an entirely different voice when they write in journals, send personal letters or other communications.  If you're one of these writers, you might go back and read some of your journal entries and think about the kinds of letters you write.  Is your writing there more entertaining there, more honest? 

Another way to help develop your voice is to simply write - and try to forget what you learned in English class.  I know, I know, there are English teachers out there railing at that last remark, but in the world of fiction it's true.  To write fiction your voice must be entertaining and enjoyable.  Of course your basic English rules remain in place most of the time, but with fiction those rules can be, even must be, broken at times to paint your word picture.

Read some of your favorite authors.  Focus on a page or a few paragraphs.  How is their writing different from yours?  You'll not develop their writing voice - you'll develop your own, but reading examples can help you to pick out where you go all academic or pedantic in your writing.

Most of all, let go and write like you're telling a story to a friend.  Writing quickly can help you develop your voice, you're less hard on yourself when getting words swiftly down on paper or briskly marching across your screen.  Give yourself some latitude and be at ease with yourself - that writing voice will begin to assert itself with strength.

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