Voice is imperative. It’s essential. It is everything.
It is quite possible to have one of the greatest storylines ever created, the vast lands, the adorable and lovable characters, the perfect plot twists and the greatest ending ever penned by man. However, without the right voice, the story won’t flow, it won’t move the reader and the story will never be read; except by those that love you the most (hi mom and dad).
But exactly what is “voice”? Ironically, it is something pretty hard to define. Those that try usually end up using examples and the reader is still left slightly puzzled, if not even more confused.
Allow me to try to better explain it here. As any aspiring author knows, voice is not only important to the story, but it is highly needed in the synopsis and query letters as well. It is a beast but is actually easy.
Most people try to define what voice is NOT. I find this backward. I know why people do this, though. It’s because we all have this definition in our head that pops up when we hear the word “voice.” The problem, as I have outlined on Monday’s writing prompt, is that starting a definition with what something is not, is counter-intuitive. I feel it adds to the confusion.
What IS Voice?
So let me start the definition, with you know, the definition.
Voice is the words you choose to write. It is the way you present those words, where your pauses are, the mood they bring, the use of commas, ellipses, periods, etc.
Now with that out of the way, I can reiterate writer’s voice by telling you what it is not. This should further quash that instinct to bring up the noun definition.
It is not a sound. Voice is not something you hear so much as feel. It isn’t a spoken word, we aren’t talking about the noun definition here. Instead, we are talking about word usage and placement.
When you think of how it’s implied, voice becomes so important. Most readers will read inside their head, silently. There has to be a rhythm, a pace, a pentameter. Even if its one you create for the first time.
Without that “beat” the reader will get lost, the words will become choppy, and they will put the work down. It needs to be smooth… unless of course, it is actually choppy.
Lead By Example
Confused yet? How about an example? In my work “Journal: Decoded” the narrator uses a specific voice. A matter of fact voice with some chop sentences for emphasis:
I am not sure if this was the mistake, or decoding the latest block of text was. Whichever it was, I wish I could say I didn’t do it. I did. During the process I am about to describe to you, I just knew I was going to die. I didn’t. Sometimes I wished I would have.
Do you see how it flows through? How the emphasis is outlined by the short, two-word, sentences? Tension is built, but the immediate questions are answered. Did I have to state “I didn’t”? No, we obviously know the narrator didn’t die, or these words wouldn’t have been written. You do it because it matches the story, it continues the flow, and it states how scared the narrator really is about dying here.
You Do It
Its all in the voice. Read your work out loud. Do it. A few times. You will find where your own written voice falls apart. Your writing will be better for it. Carry it over to your queries and synopses as well. They all have to match.
For more practice and understanding, take a look at this week’s writing prompts (April 5th to April 9th). We cover it in this week’s newsletter, too. Each section helps you understand, identify and control your writer’s voice.