Feb 25, 2014

What is Voice?

by Terri Wagner

I thought I had this concept down pat, but as with all things in English, it has changed, evolved is perhaps a better word. I always considered voice as the author's tone...and why he said what he said the way he said it. Vague maybe, but for years, I understood that concept. I interviewed one half of a two-author series once and asked, how do you maintain one voice? How does it work so seamlessly? She explained that he wrote, she edited. When she had something she wanted to write, she wrote it; sent it to him, he rewrote in "his" voice; then sent back to her and she in turn edited. That seemed cumbersome to me, but it worked. They are a highly successful team. Even more telling, when he or she wrote as individuals, the style was definitely different from each other and from the "team"effort.

Armed that way, I dove into an assignment on another blog to explain voice. The draft was not approved. I had it wrong. Puzzled, I scratched my head, and googled it. Big mistake, in retrospect. Information overload. So I narrowed my search down to English professors. Still information overload. I narrowed it to writing voice. Better. Only still rather confusing. So in the spirit of information overload, here's what I found out.

From Wikipedia, we learn: The writer's voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of idiotypical usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works). More or less what I thought I understood voice to be.

From Writer's Digest, voice is: Finding a writing voice can be a struggle, whether you’re writing a novel, short story, flash fiction or a blog post. Some may even wonder, what is voice in writing? A writer’s voice is something uniquely their own. It makes their work pop, plus readers recognize the familiarity. You would be able to identify the difference between Tolkien and Hemingway, wouldn’t you? It’s the way they write; their voice, in writing, is as natural as everyone’s speaking voice. Your voice should be authentic, even if you borrow a sense of style from your favorite author. But remember, voice and style are two entirely different things. When you find that unique voice, you might not even be able to explain how it came about—let alone describe what it is. That’s the beauty of writing and discovering as you write. Sometimes the best things just happen naturally.

From Scholastic, we muddy the water further: You know writing has voice if It shows the writer's personality It sounds different from everyone else's It contains feelings and emotions The words come to life It comes from the heart

My bottom line is voice is so impossible to define, there are no rules. So go with what feels good. LOL


  1. Well researched and well written. Thanks for the info.

  2. I appreciate this post. A lot. My dilemma is I think I found my voice...but I don't think very many people really want to hear it! I'm going to have to ponder on this for awhile. hugs~


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