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Thread: What does mean to have developed a strong distinctive voice in your writing

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    What does mean to have developed a strong distinctive voice in your writing

    How does a writer that has developed a clear distinctive voice in their writing compare to writer who has yet to develop one.

    Is it really just a matter of being able to have someone point out something you have written among a pile of other written works or is there something more?

  2. #2
    There's a certain way in which you speak. You have certain phrasing and ways of comparing or structuring your words. It's the voice your write with. I write with a more poetic voice because that how I naturally speak in someways, but also how I naturally just write. You develop a voice over time as you write.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW Kolta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by helloCharlie View Post
    How does a writer that has developed a clear distinctive voice in their writing compare to writer who has yet to develop one.
    I know 'developing a voice' is mentioned often, but tbph I think everyone has one already. If a writer has a personality, I think they have a voice. The one who communicates a distinctive voice is the one who's managed to pick the right tools for their purpose and sharpen them enough that their voice is expressed as best as it possibly can be.

    The voice is the personality and style throughout the novel. It's the perspective from which it's told, even if the story's told through a character. There are particular things every writer will notice - a unique outlook that will make them want to bring certain things into focus while others take a backseat. And this outlook remains consistent.

    When the author's voice is distinctive, they are in control. They frame the way a story's told and carry the reader throughout the novel, like letting them ride a single train throughout the entire trip, even if the readers don't know the destination. A writer with a distinctive voice does not suddenly abandon the controls and force the reader to jump tracks once the story takes over with no perspective or sureness to it.

  4. #4
    I write weird stories. phantasy's Avatar
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    Ignore this and just keep writing. You'll develop your voice whether you like it or not.

    That being said, imo, the voice/tone of a horror novel should be different than a romance.

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by helloCharlie View Post
    How does a writer that has developed a clear distinctive voice in their writing compare to writer who has yet to develop one.

    Is it really just a matter of being able to have someone point out something you have written among a pile of other written works or is there something more?
    It's that and hopefully more.

    Yes, voice is about distinctive way of storytelling and conveying information - but you don't want someone to be able to pick out your (not you in particular, the general you) writing from a pile because it's consistently weird or off-putting.

    It's a way of storytelling, of constructing stories, characters, etc., that people can not only pick out but want to keep reading. Not everyone likes everything, but such is life.

  6. #6
    Benefactor Member Nymtoc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phantasy View Post
    Ignore this and just keep writing. You'll develop your voice whether you like it or not.

    That being said, imo, the voice/tone of a horror novel should be different than a romance.
    Yes and yes.

    A pitfall, for some beginners, is trying to imitate a successful or an admired writer too closely. That sort of thing can be a valuable exercise, but eventually your own voice should materialize.


    "Ignorance is an evil weed, which dictators may cultivate among their dupes, but which no democracy can afford among its citizens." -- William Beveridge

  7. #7
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    Like the clothes you favor wearing, it is your style. Your flavor. In that it conveys the way you communicate with words. Everybody starts off with one but then it grows on them and becomes somewhat of a distinctive and permanent fixture. Although there are some writers so adept at word-smithing, they can imitate or change their style for the sake of mood or genre. However, their core voice/style remains with them, no matter how much they try and shake it.

    Hemingway vs C. McCarthy. Can you see the difference.

  8. #8
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Yes, to much of the above, except to point out that "voice" and "tone" are entirely separate things. Tone has to do with mood--the tone for a novel can be tragic, comedic, dark, cynical, inspirational, idealistic, etc.

    Voice is also not exactly the same thing as style. Certain authors do have distinctive styles--contrast Hemingway with Faulkner with P.G. Wodehouse. Style can be deeply connected to voice, but doesn't have to be. Authors can imitate the style of other writers, but they will never flawlessly duplicate it, because their own voice will impinge on it.

    Voice is one of those things that's hard to define, but you know a good one when you see it. While it might be said that every writer has a voice, not every voice is distinctive enough to rise to the level of "instantly recognizable."
    Last edited by BethS; 01-05-2014 at 06:30 PM.

  9. #9
    Writer for Life Heather Head's Avatar
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    If I may, for a moment, compare the concept of "voice" to the concept of (ahem) pornography:

    I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.
    —Justice Potter Stewart, concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964), regarding possible obscenity in The Lovers.

    Voice develops over the course of years. Write, write, write. Copy your favorites, lots of them, for practice. Practice your mechanics. And then be unafraid to break some rules, so long as you know you're breaking them. And write some more. Write and your voice will come.

    And yes, a writer with a distinctive voice is recognizable by a keen and knowledgeable writer. It's quite easy, for instance, to tell the difference between Hemingway and Faulkner, to give an obvious example. Dickens and Austen, for another. I can usually pick Mark Twain out of a line-up. And you know all those fake Shakespeare quotes that circulate Facebook? I can pick them out in a millisecond. Nobody gets Shakespeare right unless they're quoting exactly.

    Think of it this way. If your text messages suddenly got jumbled up and the names removed from them, would you still know who most of them were from? Even those that contained very little actual content? That's because you know your friends's "voices." Ratchet that up a notch to a practiced, skilled, talented, and experienced author, and you've got a *distinctive* voice.
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  10. #10
    Writer for Life Heather Head's Avatar
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    Ah, and this:

    Quote Originally Posted by helloCharlie View Post
    Is it really just a matter of being able to have someone point out something you have written among a pile of other written works or is there something more?
    Yes, it is more. A strong voice is enjoyable to listen to. Do you read blogs? If you know a particular blogger (or commentator, or editorial writer) and like their voice, you'll read almost anything they've written just because they wrote it.

    Compare that to a standard textbook or a clear, well-written (but "voiceless") technical manual. It may be clearly written, but you don't want to read it. Now imagine that same technical manual written by, for an example, Jenny Lawson or Joel Stein. Now it's worth reading. That's voice.
    Heather Head
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  11. #11
    Born long ago, in a different era T Robinson's Avatar
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    I agree with all above. Note as you go through the forums the different posters. As you go, you will see that you recognize their type of writing here. In one sense, that is their "voice" here.

    Exercise: Go to profile of anyone here. Look under statistics and see posts by that person. If you read them, you will see a common way of how they express themselves (for the most part), in various threads.

    That might "show" you how voice can work and give you an idea. Look at your own posts as a whole and you might see your own tendencies. Knowledge is power. Good luck.

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW Maze Runner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by helloCharlie View Post
    How does a writer that has developed a clear distinctive voice in their writing compare to writer who has yet to develop one.

    Is it really just a matter of being able to have someone point out something you have written among a pile of other written works or is there something more?
    I think your voice should adapt to the story you're writing. You should write from that world, and if you're coming from a certain character's point of view then from his or her perspective. But even at that, I think we all strive to find our personal best in whatever story we're telling. I struggle with this, as I acknowledge that I will always have a lot to learn, but the last thing I want is for it to come of as false, to feel as though I'm trying to hard. Truth is what matters.

  13. #13
    υπείκωphobe Wilde_at_heart's Avatar
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    It's the distinctive way that people express anything. I'm on a few forums where there is anon posting and regulars can often tell 'who' someone is by the way they write - certain words they pick, turns of phrase, sentence length or variation, idioms they use and so on.
    Some people are sharp-witted and sarcastic, others flowery, or lively or pretentious or expletive-filled, others will be succinct or humourous, some are gloomy.

  14. #14
    Just pokin' about Anna Spargo-Ryan's Avatar
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    I think consistency is an important factor in voice as well.

    Hemingway might be the most voicey (to coin a phrase) writer of the past hundred years, and his voice is consistent from start to finish, across all of his work. It changed with time, as I imagine everyone does with both writing experience and life experience, but everything he wrote was undeniably his. His voice was "him" as much as his face or his name.

    I feel as though voice is a natural resting state, and it is strengthened through learning about and practise of writing. Like a speaking voice--as an opera singer, I can make my voice do many things, but the way I speak is inherent. But when I am singing, there is an element of my speaking voice in it--it still sounds like me.

    I think voice in writing is a bit like that. It can be adapted to other forms (long-form writing, shorts, poetry, non-fiction, letters, shopping lists) but it all comes from the same place.
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    I go to eleven MookyMcD's Avatar
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    Well, someone beat me to the Potter Stewart quote, so now I don't have anything worthwhile to add.

    Except, maybe, that I have had three different agents tell me that my writing reminds them of the same fantasy author (eta or sci-fi, I'm not sure which). I don't write fantasy at all. My MS is straight, concept fiction. Well, satirical concept fiction. But three people using the same word to describe a similarity to an author in a completely different genre (whom I have never read a word from before, and who I am now scrupulously avoiding reading at least until my second MS is done) is kind of an indication of what the concept is.
    Last edited by MookyMcD; 01-06-2014 at 10:40 AM. Reason: Fantasy or sci fi???

  16. #16
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    When I first started out there were certain writers who really appealed to me. I fell in love with the way they wrote, the way they bumped one word against another. I've always been attracted to humor and irony. All of these writers had that in common, wonderful expressions of human feelings and conditions that were sympathetic and memorable. They all used metaphor and simile, crafting beautiful imagery without overdoing it. I read everything they wrote or I could find. They became my core. And I tried so hard to duplicate their voice/s.

    I am a fruit salad combination of:

    Joseph Wambaugh
    Poul Anderson
    Alan Dean Foster
    Peter Benchley
    Stephen King (to some extent--I tend to ramble after reading him which fouls everything up).

    In the end, I am neither one or any of them combined. I am me because my personality and expression creep in there and change the dynamics. Therefore, I'm original. And it does take years or lots of words to settle in with your own voice and manner.

    I was so far off base in thinking that I had these authors down pat, that when several people said, "Hey, you come across like Heinlein or Farmer," I was a little shattered. Now how in the hell did that happen? So, I don't think anybody can force or predict their voice. I barged in and created ME.

    I think all writers/authors develop a voice from EVERYTHING they have read, and reading lots of books by different authors is a well-rounded prerequisite to developing their voice. Amazingly, most writers can't even begin to identify and pigeon-hole their own voice. Readers do that.

  17. #17
    Pyrosama pyrosama's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by helloCharlie View Post
    How does a writer that has developed a clear distinctive voice in their writing compare to writer who has yet to develop one.
    If you write for a while, honestly and without hesitation, you will begin to write what comes naturally. Soon enough, you will drop all that verbiage you tried to use to sound smart so that people will listen to you. Once that happens, you've found your voice.

    This gave me a lot more to reflect upon, so thanks for asking! I will have to consider a blog post on this subject now.

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW
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    I'd venture that learning to write naturally, in the manner that flows best from you, is what's going to develop "voice". Too many inexperienced writers try to write "like writers", or like their favorite writers, or get too hung up on minor grammatical issues*, and that stymies and frustrates them. And "voice" may also vary with story. Not every writer writes everything in the same manner or style.

    caw

    *We have an entire forum here devoted to grammatical issues, and questions of small detail dominate there.
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  19. #19
    I agree with Roxxsmom.
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    Craft is all the things you focus on. Voice appears when you're not paying attention.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by guttersquid View Post
    Craft is all the things you focus on. Voice appears when you're not paying attention.
    Damn how I hate it when somebody says what I meant better and more efficiently than I did.

    caw
    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    -- Terry Pratchett

  21. #21
    Stealing your twiglets. Anninyn's Avatar
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    Your voice is how you write when you’re not trying to find your voice. Your voice is the way you write, the way you talk. Your voice is who you are, what you believe, what themes you knowingly and unknowingly embrace.
    Your voice is you.
    - Chuck Wendig (WARNING blog very sweary)

    People with a strong voice are just people who've been practicing enough that their voice comes through clear and strong, not smothered behind poor word choices and writing that is trying too hard.

    Your cvoice will probably sound a little like the writers you most admire with a healthy dollop of *you*.

  22. #22
    I go to eleven MookyMcD's Avatar
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    Chuck certainly has his own "voice"

  23. #23
    To dance and write is divine. TheDancingWriter's Avatar
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    The more you write, the more you'll develop it. I haven't written that much poetry in my life, but when I do write fiction, it tends to be poetic in nature because not only do I want a good story, but I also want the writing itself to resonate with readers.

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  24. #24
    I go to eleven MookyMcD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDancingWriter View Post
    The more you write, the more you'll develop it.
    This is an excellent point. I think that's the reason first novels (including my first novel) are rarely publishable. They perform an enormous service, though -- giving us the confidence that comes from knowing we are capable of writing a complete (if bad) novel and providing a serious chance for that voice to begin coming out.

  25. #25
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    The bottom line is that voice means someone familiar with your work can tell immediately that an unlabelled piece of work was written by you. It is, in itself, a neutral quality IMHO. Voice can be good and it can be bad.

    A lot of great writers have a transparent kind of writing that does not draw attention to itself and so has little immediate 'voice'--and has a clear identity only when the work is considered as a whole rather than passage by passage.
    Emily Veinglory

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