As a creative writing student, I think finding the “perfect voice” in your work can be exhausting. Obviously I can’t speak for every writer out there. Sometimes, voice just comes naturally to oneself and they specifically use it for their desired medium. However, that isn’t the case for most writers.
What is a voice?
When I say ‘voice’, I don’t mean writing dialogue. I mean using your own words and styles to convey the plot to your readers. It’s no good writing in a bland, uninteresting manner if it doesn’t have a touch of your personality within the words. When I write, I usually tend to find my voice isn’t powerful enough to provoke a reader’s emotions or to keep their interest in my work stronger. It’s similar to painting a picture and not using giving enough detail or colour into your piece.
Do you like using short, simple sentences? Use them. Do you like using complex sentences? Again, use them. Your voice is yours. Utilise it in whichever way you want. In my experience, I’ve been afraid of my readers not liking my writing because it’s too ‘fancy’ or too ‘complicated’. Does it matter? Of course not. Unless the words are completely undecipherable or have never been taught in English class, then I would advise you avoid using ‘big’ words that no average reader on earth would understand.
An uncertain voice can also impact the genre in which you’re writing. If it’s fiction, don’t be afraid to include modern vocabulary. Your characters are your mouthpiece; if they’re narrating the story, use them to your advantage. Use slang words and inappropriate words (but, don’t overdo them!) The same applies to poetry, screenwriting, playwriting etc. There are no limitations when it comes to the voice.
Using your voice in character dialogue
Utilising your voice in dialogue is just as important. Do you want your characters to sound like how you speak in real life? Do whatever you wish. Make them as informal and colloquial as you possibly can! It makes them more believable and human.
If it’s possible, inject dialect and accents into your character’s speech. However, I would NOT advise doing this if you lack knowledge of how a certain accent sounds. This can lead to major complications, such as stereotypes and clichés. It’s optional. Your readers will imagine the characters in their preferred accents.
Voice IS relevant to the plot
The voice relates to the plot of your novel. Without it, the plot would be devoid of feeling or action. Your voice is what drives the story forward, as well as character and setting. The language you use influences your characters’ decisions and thoughts.
If you use a typical sentence, unfortunately seen within fiction, such as: “The sky was blue and the trees were green. I looked up and stared at the clouds,” you’re not going to get a lot of positive feedback on your work. People will get bored, and this will have a negative influence on your target audience. Ask yourself 3 questions:
- What language would I use when describing events, people, or places?
- How do I want to describe my characters and settings without making them seem dull?
- How can I make the language more engaging for my readers?
When in doubt, I’ve asked myself these, and it’s usually worked out. Would you say “said” all the time? Would you use simple language to describe amazing experiences? These are all questions that will make a difference to your voice and your writing in general. Here’s some advice I will openly offer if you’re struggling to find your voice:
- Use detail and imagery to create atmosphere.
- Write from all three tenses, and decide which one suits you best.
- Include plot twists and cliffhangers – nothing screams interest more than leaving a reader dumbfounded or desperately wanting to know what happens next.
- Ask other people if the words flow well.
- Accept criticism, and utilise it during your editing to help find your voice.
- Revise the word choices you make and ask yourself if they’re necessary/relevant to the story.
- Create five characters and write short pieces from their perspectives.
- If you like how you’ve written a scene, continue writing like it.
Finding your voice when you’re writing can be difficult and it hits even the best of us, even if we’ve already written something. Voices change, and that’s okay. If you’re struggling, just keep searching and you’ll find it. Become original and write in a way that’s comfortable for you, and one that won’t drive your readers away. Be clear in your writing, and you will find your voice just like that.