Let Your Voice Be Heard (Or Read)

I don’t really play many Christmas songs for myself. Generallly, I get enough of them from the world around me in stores and in commercials. But for some unexplained reason I found myself at iTunes this week searching for Christmas music and discovered Christmas with Weezer. Whether it’s the crazy distortion on the guitar or just the moody tone, the band has stayed true to these classic songs while giving them new life for me.

And that’s one of the great beauties about art. Musicians, like other artists, can add their personality to their craft, making it their own so that no one song will sound the same when performed by two separate artists.

Writing is the same. Voice is so important to what we do. Writing voice gives our work personality. Character voice makes the players in our story stand out from each other. Two writers can tackle the same story with the same plot and characters and come out with different versions, completely unique thanks to the voice of the writer. Agents love it too as many of them say strong voice is what they look for in a writer’s work.

So how can writers perfect the art of voice? I often wrestle with this. I have the tendency to write out the voice in my writing. By this I mean, I appreciate craft and know this is also something readers and the publishing industry both value. Good writing is essential. But when I am too conscious of the craft of writing, the voice is dull. If I’m not careful, my focus on the structure can kill voice when I sit down to write.

So I try to find a balance, knowing I must have both. I’ve always felt the best way to write with great voice is to give myself permission for imperfection. Then the voice comes. After all, when the first draft is finished, I can go back and fix things that fall under the umbrella of craft. Most important to me is that the writing has personality and that the audience has read something from a unique perspective. So I hope you find inspiration in the arts this season and here’s to letting our voices speak.


6 Responses to Let Your Voice Be Heard (Or Read)

  1. Writing with a voice is such a complex and elusive topic. When I think of voice, I tend to think of stories like the classic American detective novels where you can smell the stale bear and tobacco on the main character’s breath and hear the gravel in their voice simply from the words the author uses on the page. Literary fiction also often benefits from a strong writer voice.

    With other genres, the line between voice and style becomes more blurred. Writing epic fantasy, for example, the writer more often seeks to convey the story in the clearest manner possible. Is it “voice” when they aim for vividness in the descriptions of scenery or magic? Is it “voice” when writing character dialogue, when the aim is to get into the character’s head, and find their words rather than use yours? I know when writing dialogue I try and take out my own voice as much as possible. Maybe I never grasped the concept, but thinking of writing in terms of voice never really helped me achieve what I wanted writing certain genres of fiction.

    When writing blog posts, opinion pieces, non-fiction, other forms of prose and poetry I find voice a very helpful concept. Voice is what makes it “pop”. It’s what makes a piece engaging to read. It’s probably why people write books on how to write with a voice: sometimes it helps, and sometimes it gets in the way.

    • For me voice is all about personality. Some things you read and it sounds like a committee wrote it. There is no sense of person. I believe voice has a place in genre fiction and that it isn’t only relevant in literary fiction. I think all the things you mentioned are included in voice, giving it personality and helping us invest in the writing and characters so that we care about what is happening in the story. Thanks, as always, for a thoughtful comment, T.J.

  2. Good questions. I find creating character profiles helps in terms of keeping true to each one. You’re totally right about finding the balance; a little of one thing can kill the mood/scene.

    • It’s true that character profiles help you know your characters inside out. It’s making that personality jump off the page that is what I strive to improve. Thanks for the comment, Linda!

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