My face-to-face crit group picked up a new member about a month ago. He’s fresh out of college, has been writing for a long time, but never tried to have anything published. The first chapter he presented for crit was a well-crafted bit of writing but typical for a beginner: lots of flowery descriptive passages, no action, no concept of character, not a clue to what the story was about.
One of our older members, who’s been around a while and has a few novels with a major print publisher, commented. “This voice might work for a literary piece, but it won’t fly in genre fiction.”
His reply, “What’s voice?”
People keep slinging that word around. I had to look it up.
Voice is a combination of a writer’s use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc….Voice can also be referred to as the specific fingerprint of an author, as every author has a different writing style. ~~Wikipedia
One thing I know about voice is how elusive it can be.
Hard to find, easy to lose. Usually, when I feel myself slipping, or more often locked up, I pick up a piece of fiction by an author I enjoy reading and start analyzing paragraphs. Lately, I’ve been reading poetry.
O for the dropping of raindrops in a song!
O for the sunshine and motion of waves in a song!
~~Walt Whitman, A Song of Joys
In a half dozen articles, I kept reading these words: song, poetry, sound, rhythm, color. Color?
A writer’s voice is his song. The magic of words strung together to create an image only he can show us. It’s a living breathing thing that changes as characters, scene, emotions change, but beneath every line lies the unique voice of the individual telling his story.
Can we learn it? We can learn to do it right. Study syntax, accept the rules, learn to use them to your advantage, but your voice is within you waiting to be found. It forms from all you have experienced, all the people you’ve met, all you have read, all that makes you who you are.
So, how do you find it? By writing, and rewriting, and writing again. And, in my case, I write, and rewrite, write again and read poetry. At some point, the words fall into place and you see magic happen. Voila, exactly what you wanted to say, said clearly and beautifully.
I did not know how to differentiate
between volcanic desire,
and purple fire
like red heat,
of her feet:
I had two loves separate;
God who loves
alone knew why
and told the old
which he did.
~~HD Doolittle, The Master
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