Sep 5 2021, 3:02 pm in , , ,

Let’s talk about VOICE.  Not the TV show. The ‘voice’ that comes through in your story. Your book. And I don’t mean reading it out loud. I mean what YOU bring to the story.

 Ever ask anyone to define voice? Most times I’ve gotten something along the lines of, I can’t tell you what it is exactly but I know it when I see/read it. Or, have you tried to explain voice to a newbie author?

 Okay, so here’s my take on voice.   

 There are many layers of voice in a book.

 First is the author’s voice. It’s how you, the author, tells the story. Ten people can be eye witnesses to an event. Each will give a somewhat different account. It’s according to their world view. The way their experience leads them to see and understand the world.

 Edna St, Vincent Millay said:  A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with their pants down.

 How come? Because in writing we reveal our own world view. How we feel about events going on around us. Not so much the events. A tree falling is a tree falling. But in the telling of the tree falling, you reveal feelings, perceptions and the process of dealing with the event. Your voice.

 We don’t need to be a serial killer to write about one. The emotions and how you deal with them in your story reveals how you feel about serial killers. Your voice.

 Second is the character’s voice. Each character having a distinct voice is important.

 Ernest Hemingway said, “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.”

 In order for me to do this I have to know my characters. I take James Scott Bell’s definition of voice to heart. “Character background and language filtered through the author’s heart and rendered with craft on the page =voice.” 

 To find a character’s voice I create a world view for them. Give them values, secrets, fears, misguided beliefs and so on. The characters become real to me. In the long rum each character has a little of the authors voice in them. I don’t see how it is possible to eliminate it.   

 In his book, The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface, Donald Maass says emotional craft underlies the creation of character arcs, plot turns, beginnings, midpoints, endings, and strong scenes. It is the basis of voice.

 I do my best to create emotional connections between characters and the reader. Make them feel something. It’s said people will forget what you do, say, and write unless you make them feel when you do, say, and write something.

 When someone says the voice wasn’t strong, I believe what they’re saying is the author failed to make them strongly feel something.

 What do you think?


 My go to books for studying voice are:

  • The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface, Donald Maass.
  • Voice by James Scott Bell.
  • Finding Your Voice by Les Edgerton.     

 Since I said we all have our own world views we all more than likely have different views on what voice is. Feel free to share yours and any books you find helpful.    



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