If you’re writing fiction, at some stage you’re bound to have heard the advice that you need to find your “voice.” We discussed voice at our last writer’s group meeting, and decided that it’s the most useless piece of advice ever.
Here’s why. There’s no one single voice which you as a writer need to cultivate and coddle, and keep forever as “your voice.”
In my everyday life, I’m a marketer in an agency. Depending on the client, my “voice” for advertising, content, or for ebooks, changes. It needs to change, depending on the audience the client is targeting. A client whose audience is millennials will need a different “voice” in his marketing collateral than the client who’s running an investment company for retirees.
When you’re writing fiction, your voice will change with each novel or story
Similarly, when you’re writing fiction, your voice/ style will change with each book. Currently I’m reading my way through John Maddox Roberts’ SPQR series of historical mysteries. I’m sure that if Roberts wrote contemporary mysteries, his voice would be different.
Let’s look at some tips for building your confidence that your voice for your novel is just fine.
1. When you’re starting a new novel, choose your Point of View (POV) — your POV determines your “voice”
For most projects, for Points of View, you have a choice between:
- First person, I. As in: “I met him for the first time at a party. All I remember from the party…” Etc. Or,
- Third person (probably third person limited — you stay in the mind of your viewpoint character throughout. You may also choose third person multiple — you write from the POV of several characters in your novel.) As in: “She met him for the first time at a party. All she remembered from the party…” Etc.
If you choose first person POV, your voice will be different from third person. First person is automatically more intimate: you have a relationship with the reader.
While first person is a lot of fun, as a POV for an entire novel it has limitations, and can be hard to sustain, depending on the genre.
On the other hand, third person multiple is less intimate, but offers more options.
There’s another option too — Second person, you. As in: “You met him for the first time at a party. All you remember from the party…” Etc.
Here’s a suggestion. Write a scene in your novel. It can be any scene you like, it doesn’t have to be the first scene in the book. Try it from first person, then from third person.
Which feels more right, more comfortable?
You’ll find that once you’ve chosen a POV for your novel, and you know your genre, you can leave voice to take care of itself.
2. Imitate the voice of a writer you admire
Who’s your favorite writer? Write a scene of your novel, copying this writer’s voice. You’re not plagiarizing, or stealing, when you copy someone’s voice. Writers have always done this, and it can teach you a lot.
You may find this hard to do, or easy, but you won’t be able to copy a writer’s voice completely. In the process, you may just hit on your own voice for writing this particular novel.
3. Relax: just write — your voice will take care of itself
Forget voice. Tell your story in the way which is most natural for you, and which feels most comfortable.
Writing fiction is fun. Once you’ve chosen a POV, relax. That’s your voice — for this novel, anyway. 🙂
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