Thursday, April 3, 2008

More on Voice...

Our family just returned from a great trip to Gatlinburg, TN. (The setting of Her Unlikely Family!) It was spring break for the kids, and since this will probably be our last spring break trip with my oldest (a high school senior) along, we went back to the place we've visited more than anywhere else for school spring breaks. It was so fun. But the last day (Wednesday) was tough at times--bittersweet. I can tell the next few months will be hard on this ol' mom!

Anyway, I see that Lindi posted on voice while I was gone. It's a topic I love to discuss. So since I missed it, I thought I'd give my take on it and see what you think.

One of our blog commenters said she was told she has a "fun" voice. She also said she'll buy certain authors without even reading a cover blurb because of the voice. So, what do you think it is that makes voice so important?

The first time someone told me I'd found my voice was in a comment from my husband's aunt--after reading my Christmas letter. That was the first time I'd ever heard the term, so I wrote to her to ask what voice was. (She was working on her Masters of Creative Writing at the time, so I was thrilled to get her input!) I wish I still had her email with her answer. But basically, what I remember taking away from it is that voice is the writer's personality showing through. She said it's hard for a writer to find his/her voice, and that I'd found mine. She also put me in contact with a member of Georgia Romance Writers (an RWA chapter) who was in her class. That's how I got involved in seriously pursuing my writing.

All because Aunt Joyce told me I'd found my voice. (Thank you, Joyce!)

I've also had close friends tell me that when they read my stories, they can "hear" me, like I'm reading the story to them. I guess my writing has a southern accent! LOL

I think who we are, all our life experiences, our personality, all make up our voice. Of course, we don't want all our characters to sound alike! So there's more to it than how we make our characters talk. I need to be able to write a guy from New York as well as write a mom from Georgia.

I think it also has to do with how we tell a story. How our sentences flow. How we describe things. How we break a paragraph. It's word choices, where we put our dialogue tags, and what themes we write about.

No wonder it's hard to nail down what voice is!

So if you're wondering how to find your voice, I guess my advice would be to try writing a Christmas letter! LOL Seriously, take a look at your personal writings. Your journal, if you have one. Letters you've written. If you don't have any of those, then start keeping a journal! Or write letters, even if you won't mail them. Then look at your favorite manuscript (not necessarily your favorite, but the one the most people have raved about). See if you can pinpoint what makes it stand out. Is it your voice?

Another note, just my opinion. I think the more you write, the better chance you'll find your voice. I think it's something you can discover as you write more manuscripts.

So, your turn. What do you think makes up voice?



  1. I discovered your blog a few days ago and have enjoyed what I've read so far. Although I've made significant progress, I'm still discovering my personal writing voice.

    In an earlier post, you referenced Chip MacGregor's thoughts about voice, which he had shared on another blog site. I'll borrow some of the powerful words he used in it.

    "Voice is that quality in your writing that is uniquely you. Nobody else really captures it. Nobody else would say it that way. Your personality is revealed through your vocabulary, your rhythm, and the images you use."

    For me, a writer's voice is about uniqueness and authenticity. No one else may "turn a phrase""toss a word-salad" the way I do. I like to weave wit and humor in my storytelling, sometimes taking it within a step or two of becoming inane. I like evoking an occassional grin, snicker, lol, or roflol from a reader.

  2. Ed, I'm so glad you mentioned Chip's words! I hadn't thought to go back to that post. I guess some of what he said had steeped in my brain a bit. :)

    I think humor is definitely part of voice. I always seem to have humor in my stories, even if I'm dealing with an emotional part of the story. I guess in real life, I use humor to diffuse tension, so that comes across in my story.

    Thanks for visiting! And thanks for reminding me of the previous post. It seems that the topic of voice comes back as an issue over and over. And I guess because it's so important.

  3. Hi Missy,

    Great post and I totally agree. I've never quite been able to describe what voice is but what you said about people reading your work being able to 'hear' you is totally it!

    One of the things that people (who know me) frequently comment about my writing is how much of 'me' is reflected in it.

    For me I really realised I'd found my voice was when I walked into church one day and found myself almost hug tackled by a friend of mine.

    She had been reading the first version of my ms and was at a part where one of the characters was going through a really tough situation and she couldn't separate the character from me. I literally had to have a "Um honey it's fiction. That never happened." conversation with her!

    I know that I'm really lucky in that finding my voice is never something I've really struggled with. It just seemed to already be there when I started writing. Unfortunately the same can't be said for everything else. A strong voice doesn't really help much when your plot is going nowhere ;)


  4. LOL, Kara! I have the same problem with plot. :)

    I love what you said about your friend hugging you in comfort! That's hysterical--but fantastic!! You've got a huge hurdle out of the way already. Plot is something you can work on, so never fear. It's been a never-ending learning process for me! But one that I'm really enjoying.

    Hmmm... Plotting may need to be a topic for a post soon. :)


  5. Missy,

    Great addition to my post. I think voice is so important to a writer. We could probably talk about it every week as we all journey through this writing life.