What is the writing voice?
The ‘voice’ is your individual style. It’s something you discover in the hush of writing time, the rhythm of the words, sentence structure. Syntax, dialogue, character development, all this contributes to the voice.
It’s difficult to describe and yet I would argue it’s one of the most vital aspects of writing because it dictates the connection with the reader.
The voice is what readers hear in their heads as they follow the words you painstakingly linked together. The voice is the heart and soul and with strong voices, even when the action is long forgotten, it can haunt the reader for years, maybe even a life time.
The more certain, unique and convincing the voice, the more powerful is the text.
But more than that – and this is the really important part – the voice is the guide the writer relies upon to lead them through the action and interactions. If you can’t connect with that inner shepherd then the Wolves of Discontent will hound you. (Shudder!) Without the voice a story can be rendered meaningless, or at the least, absent of personality.
How do you find it?
Finding the voice in your writing can seem as elusive as finding the Happy Ever After love affair. You can go through a Tinder-style dating scenario where you search for the voice. Thousands of words are written. There is much disappointment.
For some people this is the point when they give up. It seems too difficult, painful, writing – it seems – isn’t for them after all. But just like dating, the process of elimination is a great instructor for getting to know what works and what does not. Chemistry is the essential component.
There’s no magical solution and everyone is different but here are some tools that work for me.
I love music. With lyrics. Always Metallica, and something deep and gritty like ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Disturbed or ethereal like ‘Song to the Siren’ by This Mortal Coil or rhythmic like ‘Break Science(remix) by Kitty Hawk. Either way my writing playlist is important in shutting down the current world and lifting the curtains on the fictional landscape. Then, I guess, for me (often, not always) the voice just starts talking. It took a lot of practice to get here though. Many hours of radio silence as I wrote paragraphs that will (and should) never see the light of day.
If the characters won’t talk, the scenes won’t sing and the plot doesn’t unravel itself that may seem like a good time to shut down the computer and go do something more rewarding. Like baking and then eating what you baked.
But don’t let them win! Keep asking questions. Who are you? Write about the characters, what they like to do, who they want to kiss, what they get up to when no one is watching.
Close your eyes and picture the scenes. A mandatory asset for the writer is imagination. If you lack this then, well… ummm… on the bright side there are many other careers that pay better. If you own the capacity to see inwards then work that imagination muscle until it’s strong. Walk through the scene with your mind until the edges sharpen and details are clear.
If you know your characters and can picture your scene then you are a good way closer to seeing what happens there.
My fingers have been suspended over the keyboard for long moments here. How to explain this when it happens unconsciously? Let me try it this way. Think of an optical illusion, or when you are in that half-dream state first thing in the morning and the subconscious is at the wheel, I often feel like I wake up after a writing session. Not from sleep, but from a place where things unfold without my overbearing consciousness stepping in to overthink everything and make characters uncomfortable and scenes awkward.
It’s a hard thing to describe.
Good luck with your writing. I hope the voice talks, words flow and the peaks cause you to quiver as you write them.